Thursday, August 9, 2012

Mexican Ingenuity: If Anyone Can a Mexi-Can !

If it can be done, leave it to Mexicans to figure it out and for free. --
And I have to admit this just isn't about folks from Mexico, but people from around the globe who reside in countries where your personal situation in life and the cards you were dealt so to speak at your birth just seems (from a purely material standpoint)  to have the card deck stacked against you. Yet somehow these people survive where most Yankees and Euros by their modern day nature expect their respective governments to spoon feed them when they get a slight nose bleed or skinned up knee. Folks in the third world still rely on alot of tradition, much of that coming from their large extended families. Sadly this is something else those of European descent have long forgotten thru all their secularism.
Take those two little girls in the photo here to the right working together to overcome an seemingly impossible obstacle. They no doubt learned such problem solving by watching their parents and other adults from their culture. This was also my first experience in problem solving with seemingly impossible odds by watching the Mexican culture as I grew up as a child and looking from my culture as an outsider looking into theirs. As I grew my opinions began to change as I became more and more influenced by my hispanic neighbours and fellow workmates whose many cultural qualities & ways I still admire to this day.

When I was growing up of course it was common for them to be made fun of  because perhaps they didn't have as nice of things as we and made to do with what always seemed second hand stuff. Why even your old things sent to Goodwill charities you figured probably ended up in Mexico. Still it was an ignorant unkindness for Anglo folks of my culture and generation back then to poke fun and joke at their expense, but it none the less was done. It's the way things were.

Later on in the late 1970s-80s to 1990 when I worked with automotive restoration, I had numerous business accounts down in Imperial Valley California in the cities of El Centro and Brawley which exposed me all the more so to the real Mexican Culture which was far different from the coast and closer to Mexico itself.  Often when traveling once a week to service those accounts, I'd pass this common breakdownalong the side of a highway 111 or 86 somewhere out in the middle of nowhere between Brawley & Indio with a car or truck broken down with it's hood up and two men walking in opposite directions with eyes intently fixated at the ground looking for something of value. Meanwhile in the car sat two wives of these men with a lot of kids in the heat. I know someone out there knows what I'm trying to illustrate. Usually these cars were the older technologynvehicles, but simple and easier to work on when broken down. No computers necessary.

image by Highway Maintenance Blog - Cuba

But I would see this scene playout so regularly. Finally I asked after some years of seeing this to one of my friends after work one day an acquaintance named Clemente Jaime who was at one time El Centro Motors (Ford Dealer) former Service Manager and then had his own Automotive Repair shop, "Just what are those guys always looking for walking up and down the road ?" He told me they most likely cannot afford the expense of being towed to the nearest town and couldn't afford the repairs if they were towed, so they were looking for something dropped along side the road that could be used to Jerry-Rigged ( a crude or improvised manner) the engine enough temporarily till a permanent solution could be found. He gave a few small example fixes and the answers sufficed. And there were other experiences I would later learn as the years went on.

Then one day in Hemet California I had to pull into the DMV Building parking lot before going home which was an hour & a half drive up the mountain and take care of my registration. As I made the left turn with my large blue Ford Econoline Van and pulled into the driveway entrance where the curb dipped sharply before going upwards to the parking area from the street, I suddenly heard this loud CLANK. I went straight forwards, but now found I could NOT turn left or right. So I went forwards to get well out of the street yet I'm still in the main parking lot driveway lane. I got out and noticed on the ground laying there was my drag link pin which was a major mechanical component of my steering mechanism which had worn out of it's socket. I picked it back up and shoved it back into it's socket so that I could at least get into a parking space and out of other folks way. 

Of course I could have afforded a AAA Tow to Jack Gosch Ford in Hemet and had them fix it, but that would be days and I needed my Van NOW, plus how would I get home anyway ? WOW !!!  But before I let my purebred Gringo panic get in the way of clear rational thinking, the first thing that popped into my head was - "What would a Mexican do ?" Seriously, those were the EXACT words that came to mind. I meditated and reasoned  that the pin fit back into the socket well enough but wouldn't stay there and driving would be dangerous, but how could I make it stay. Standing there at my driver door and looking down at the ground I suddenly saw my Tennis Shoe strings as a temporary measure. Took shoe strings out of both shoes and tightened snugly the drag link pin and worn socket together, drove slowly down the block, got out and started looking for coat hangers somewhere on the ground in an alley and vacant lot as they would be a better and safer temporary fix. Found two coat hangers and the rest was history. Stopped by Ford on the way home and ordered the part which came next day. Then drove home slowly but safely. Saved money on large Tow fee and Motel. Also saved on calling wife who would be irritated to come off the mountain and pick me up only to take me back the next day.

Next day made the repair myself and saved on repair bill labor with the exception of part cost. Still I was excited. In my mind I was now officially baptized as a Mexican by means of this against all odds experience and I finally truly knew just how how clever and educated they really truly were and how all that time they must have been laughing back at Gringos for being "no so smart"

I told this story later on to some hispanic car managers who in turn gave me some personal experiences of their own. One was Used Car Manager Bob Sanders of Lakeside Chevrolet in Perris CA. He told me of things he saw invested as temporary fixes for living and driving on rough un-maintained roads. For example getting holes in oil pans or gas tanks can be a common occurrence in Mexico as a result of horrible roads. So somewhere at some point some Mexican found a recipe for a extremely hard strong Epoxy as a temporary fix. One cup of Gasoline, one cup of Sugar and one ground up bar of Ivory Soap. Seriously it works as a strong temporary patch.

Another experience was from a Used Car Manager at Womack Chevrolet in El Centro, California. His name was Joe Cortez. He said once while traveling in Mexico in a remote area where Gas stations are scarce and electricity even scarcer, he stumbled upon a gas station which utilized an old 1920s hand pumped filled gravity fed gas pump. But it was out of action because it needed a new washer and seal. But where on modern day Earth would you go for such an antiquated part ? There was an old man sitting next to the pump with a large sheet of leather. He was punching out circles of leather and custom making these O Rings with his sharp pocket knife. Each time he made a ring, he put the works all back together and it still wouldn't work and he'd take it apart and make another ring to add to the thickness of the previous rings until it finally worked. He said he had to be patient, had no choice, but the old man did it and he filled his tank and was on his way. 

There are countless stories like this. Cubans are good example of people who have been driving 1940s and 50s model cars for decades and just kept maintaining them with ingeneous precision and ingenuity. Visit any old farm or ranch with older equipment laying around and notice all the creative addons resourceful farmers invented to make their equipment more efficient that the manufacturer never intended or dreamed of only to copy later. Even Anglos were intelligent in those days but their prosperity in later generations made them stupid. Joe Cortez laughed and told me he came from a race of McGuyvers

I've had friends send me photos of similar examples in Africa where they often have to Jerry Rig things because they have no choice and of course it no doubt is meant as a joke. In some cases it's still humorous and even those folks will laugh. But I most admire their ingenuity at creating work for themselves as some of the photos reveal here. I also admire their continued recycling in this modern cheap through away society. So I it is easy to make the mistake of thinking that those who live in what we would consider a hut are lazy and stupid. Fortunately, that is often far from the truth. In fact, they are often very resourceful of folk. Again the pics speak volumes.

Carlitos Adrian and Juan José! Water hauling business
 started when big water company shut down

Mobile Car Wash

Incredibly the Africans here in Sweden are the same. Of course Africans are here to do jobs native Swedes refuse, just like the States although the Media there will never report this. And amazingly most of the newer Africans here don't want their right to the welfare handout system the way most of the native indigenous Swedes will demand. Like the States, I have heard locals accuse them of wanting Gov benefits. Yet, I have personally spoken to several that view being tied down to the welfare system as embarrassing and humiliating. They truly want to work no matter how tough the job. Of course as all you Yankees all know, they often use this McGuyverish ability to counter anything you do to stop them from crossing the border.

by Joe Ortiz


Just one final story from Clemente's Jaime Automotive Repair shop. Back then I also sold a line of Details Supplies and worked with his son Joe Jaime from time to time who was a Snap-on Tools Distributor.Often we'd meet at his dad's shop after work. The guys from all around would come by and drink a beer or two in the 100+ degree dry heat and shade of this old style Truss built warehouse turned into repair shop. 

This one Friday I was telling Joe the stories I'd heard in Dallas Texas where the company Auto-Magic had it's headquarters and annual company convention. The distributors were telling of the purchase differences in product preferences between Anglo Auto Detailers and those who were Black or Hispanic Auto Detailers. Whites prefered Auto polishes, waxes, dressings, cleaners and car scent fragrances that were chemical in aroma, dull in colouration and mostly institutional in appearences. Blacks and Hispanics on the other hand wanted brightly coloured products with fragrances that were rich in sweetness and perfume. Everyone across the nation at this meeting agreed that was their experience also. Anyway it got laughs from the small group of 5 in that garage.

There were more Mexican workers coming that Friday afternoon to the auto shop after work as their wivies were going to bring to the shop all manner of Tortillas, Beans, Carne Asada Salsa, etc for a Bar-B-Q they were throwing and Joe Jaime had an idea. He decided to do a scientific experiment to see if my story could be proved true. He took a gallon jug of Auto-Magic Floral Scent and one gallon of Cherry Scent and placed them on a table by his father's shop desk across the large Garage floor from where the guys and Bar-B-Q were. 

Now the two jugs were side by side on that table and as more guys came in Joe would take them over and ask them the question which did they prefer. The Floral Scent was a dull green and smelled of a soft bouquet of flowers. The Cherry Scent on the other hand was bright red and had the over powering smell of Suckrets Cherry Cough Drops. We got a laugh out of every Mexican who came in and chose the Cherry over floral without question. Then we'd tell them the whole story of Anglos vrs Mexicans and they'd laugh to. I was the only anglo there. Interestingly after 20 guys came thru and took that silly test, a tow truck came in with a broke down motorhome of a Canadian snowbird couple. 

After Clemete and Joe took care of the customers needs and concerns and what repairs would be needed, Joe said, "Folks come on over here. We are doing a test today to see what our customers would prefer as a fragrance for our auto detail side of our business." The couple took the test seriously, whispered to each other, took one more whiff and the wife informed Joe, "We decided we liked the Floral". Now you have to understand that at this whole time you could here a pin drop as all the Mexican auto repair workers were waiting in silence as to what choice would be made as every one of them had chosen the bright red sticky sweet cherry. When the Canadians revealed their choice, great laughter and cheering broke out. We were in stitches and some in tears.

When Joe Jaime explained the scientific test to the Canadians, they clearly were NOT as amused as the Mexicans with the results. Wow, Mexicans even have more fun in simple things in life than Anglos.

I miss Mexicans

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