What I learned from Mexico

Nomade Tulum

I've been to Mexico twice before, held captive in the tourist swarms of Cancun and Cabo San Lucas. Beautiful places, no doubt, but the feeling comes off as artificial, almost Disney like, which, for anyone who knows me, is not me.

See, I like to feel a place—comport myself like a true denizen of it. Eat in that special place only locals know about, where the menus are in the local currency and language.

I found that in Tulum, a resort town on Mexico’s Caribbean coast. Granted, it does draw tourists and vacationers, for sure, like myself, but when you are only accessible via an almost 2-hour drive from Cancun, safe to say you are off the true beaten path.

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It’s beauty is unmatched and we stayed in a rustic, quasi-hippyish resort that was smack dab on the beach. The smell of fresh grilled fish wafted out from a small beachside shack, while cold drinks were on the ready, brought to us by the gracious, obliging and competent wait staff. Those same traits were demonstrated by the entire resort’s staff—from the welcome desk to housekeeping and maintenance. They were also exhibited by everyone we came across in town—the shop owners, the roadside peddlers.

Which got me thinking: What in tarnation is Donald Trump even talking about?

I’m apolitical in that I watch the shenanigans for the show. I wouldn’t caucus for anyone, man phone lines or show up for a rally—Democrat or Republican. What I will do is call bs when I see it. So when Donald Trump consistently denigrates Latinos, you have to speak up.

He couldn’t be any more wrong. Further, to disparage an entire population isn’t just wrong; it’s dangerous.

Let me then, bring it back to hotels. Most I visit in the States have competent, hard-working and friendly staff. Some of them, dare I say many, employ Mexicans, whom Trump is hell-bent on sending back to their country. Really Donny? With my own two eyes, I saw what had to have been a man of 65 years or more raking the beach like a sand trap, in 85-degree weather, clad in jeans and a long-sleeve button-up, probably for a few pesos a day. If that isn’t sacrifice, then I have a comb-over to sell you. These people know the value of work.

I spoke to Choice Hotels’ CEO Steve Joyce recently and he echoed similar sentiments about Trump. He knows many of the people who staff hotels in the U.S. are Latino workers, and without them, the travel industry, not to mention other industries, would fail—flat out. “He wants to send all our employees home who are now working here legally. Not sure who he thinks will work in the hotels,” Joyce told me.

The hotel industry famously skews conservative, so it’s nice to hear a hotel company CEO speaking out against the Republican front-runner. Joyce went on to say that these workers are living proof of what the American dream can be. Trump doesn’t get it.

I do. “Hard work pays off” is more than a platitude. It’s reality, especially here in the U.S. Moving to deprive someone of this based on fallacy is not the American way. It’s tragic.

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