I stopped to talk to Ramón as I was leaving the Mercado this morning. His cast has been off for a few days and he says his wrist is much better although his hand and fingers remain quite swollen. I learned today that he is 80 years old and that he has been married to the same woman for 61 years. But even so at his age, broken wrist and all – sunshine or rain – 7 days a week he’s there in the Mercado frying pig guts from 8 am till 4 pm.

Lots of people here work 6, 7 days a week. And there is no such thing as vacations; not for the average working man (or woman) anyway. And you’d think people would be majorly pissed off all the time and resentful that they had to spend so many hours working to earn their daily bread. But they’re not. And you’d think that they’d hate me, a guy who lives just one person in a house built for a big family. A guy who makes just a few sandals here and there, runs the canal any time he feels like it, has enough money to eat in the Mercado at least once a day, and whose spent beer cans could single handily fuel the entire aluminum recycling apparatus for the state of Michoacán.

But the opposite is true. Some of these people dig the fact that I am here; that I like them, their town, and their way of life enough to pitch my proverbial tent amongst them. That I am not a tourist or a cranky penny pinching expat just down here to drink cheap tequila and ogle their women. But that I am here trying to make and sell sandals like a lot of the rest of them.

They don’t know – nor would they probably understand – that I spend hours every day typing my [probably futile] next novel into a Word document. And they don’t know – nor maybe would they care – that my writing efforts might be as doomed as my nascent sandal-making business.

(Just how in the hell do you sell sandals anyway? I can design them and I can build them; I just quite haven’t figured out the sales part yet. Same question applies to writing. It’s one thing to write a novel but it’s an entirely different matter getting the damn thing published.)

But then again I don’t know much about their lives either. I do know we all work down here. And for the most part we do it joyfully and willingly. 90% of Mexican’s are either self-employed or work for small businesses. So only a minority work for the government or other large soul-sucking enterprises like multi-national corporations that have conformity standards that comprise what benignly is referred to as the corporate culture. To not work in Mexico is unimaginable. To work, to produce, and/or to make [things] is an intrinsic part of a Mexican’s national identity. People here are not estranged from their means of production. They own the work of their hands; what ever that might be. Work in Mexico is happily satisfying.

Guilt and anxiety doesn’t exist in Mexico to any meaningful extent. Consequently there are very few people with mental illnesses roaming the streets in Mexico. The two or three that I see here are all amiable buffoons who the good-natured people of the Mercado feed for free. Tequila on a Saturday night is the Prozac for the typical workman. Sure, there are traumas here like everywhere else but like how Octavio Paz has suggested, Mexicans react to the traumas of life with stoicism. And I have seen that.

So what’s not to like about Mexico? The people are gracious and appear superficially uncomplicated (until you lift the covers). There is culture in abundance. The weather is sublime. And there is an optimism here that one doesn’t find much these days on the more affluent side of the border.

Viva Mexico – the land of MexiCANs.