Why You Can’t Be a Land Baron Down South


Dear Mexican: What do you think would happen if U.S. citizens could as easily buy land and set up businesses in Mexico as Mexicans can do in the U.S.? I know there are provisions in the Mexican Constitution that prevent this, but what is the rationale? —Love Mexico

Dear Gabacho: One of the largest sections in the Mexican Constitution is Article 27, which deals with land—who can own, what said owner can do with it, and 18 other provisions. The one you hint at is Provision I, which states: “Only Mexicans by birth or naturalization and Mexican companies have the right to acquire ownership of lands, waters, and their appurtenances.” Foreign-born folks can buy property—”provided they agree before the Ministry of Foreign Relations to consider themselves as nationals in respect to such property, and bind themselves not to invoke the protection of their governments in matters relating thereto”—but can’t, under any circumstance, purchase lands “within a zone of one hundred kilometers along the frontiers and of fifty kilometers along the shores of the country.” The motivation? National sovereignty. Previous Mexican friendliness toward visiting foreigners led to the downfall of Tenochtitlán, inspired Texans to secede, provoked the Mexican-American War, and sparked the Mexican Revolution. I’m not excusing such isolationism at all—as I’ve stated before in this column, Mexico was at its strongest when it had a more liberal immigration policy—but hopefully you and your fellow gabacho invaders now have a better understanding of why Mexicans freak whenever ustedes ask for a little bit more, whether chips for your meal or half of our territory.

Is there a polite way to ask a Mexican about their immigration status? The question is actually unavoidable in my professional life, but it seems to come up socially as well. I’d like to make it as painless as possible for both parties. —Benevolent Border Babe

Dear Gabacha: Yell: “¡LA MIGRA!” If they stay, they’re OK; if they run, time for fun!

My mother is from a very superstitious community of forest-dwelling indios in the state of Guerrero. It seems that every time someone in her family has a newborn, she asks:¿Le distes ojo?” (“Did you give them the eye?”) I’ve asked my criollo father about this, and he doesn’t have a clue. Is this some kind of clandestine indigenous ritual that I’m unaware of? —Confused Mestizo

Dear Wab: The only widespread Mexican superstitions I’m aware of involving eyes is the Evil Eye and the talisman that protects people from it: the ojo de venado. The former is a universal curse and better known amongst gabachos as the Italian mal occhio; ojo de venado translates as “deer’s eye,” but is really a charm made from a bean. Your mom probably asked you if the newborn has an ojo de venado to protect it from the mal ojo. Then again, she might just be a witch.

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