My Problem With Hippie Culture in Mexico

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**A note to you, single reader: What follows is a rant. It is my ventings on an issue I really know very little about. I have not bothered to educated myself on any perspective other than my own. The thoughts presented below are bias and based on nothing else but my, very possibly skewed, observations. If you came to this post because you have a strong opinion and/or knowledge-base of hippie culture in Mexico, don’t plan on enlightening yourself further here. I took fingers to keyboard on this issue because that’s what helps me process things that move or bother me. I post it here because, well, it’s my blog, and I make the assumption that most of the people who make their way here are interested in what I have to say. What this is all leading up to is this: if what follows offends you – sorry, but I’m not sorry.**

Okay, so I know nothing about the group we have encountered numerous times during our travels here in Mexico other than what is obvious by the way they present themselves. I know that many of them seem to make a living selling handmade crafts, usually jewelry. I know they like feathers, because they often wear them tied in their hair and feature them heavily in the jewelry they sell. And I know that they usually are a very happy-looking bunch – smiling, jumping around and such. None of this bothers me. I love feathers. I love happy people. And I certainly have nothing against those who support themselves via art.

I also know that for one reason or another, this group of people, who in my head I have quite ignorantly labeled ‘hippies’ (due to their pleasant demeanor and love of feathers, duh), don’t seem to wear a lot of clothes. This goes for both genders. Just yesterday I saw a man walking down the street wearing only a very short sarong wrapped around his bum. The girls who sell jewelry are usually dressed in short skirts and cut-off tops. On calm days Austin and I like to swim to the next town over, described in our guidebook by its ‘old-time hippie feel,’ and several times have witnessed nudity. Once we had to add a few extra lengths to our swim in order to avoid coming ashore between the ass cheeks of a group of naked yoga practitioners. The town to our other side is somewhat known as a nude beach – except it’s not. It’s more of a beach where nudity is tolerated, but not necessarily the norm.

So that’s my problem right there. The assumption that one, likely insignificant but to the outsider, very prominent part of one culture, is cool with another.

Generally, I’m not offended by lots of skin, ladies going topless, or nudity on the whole. I think the human body is beautiful, sure. And I appreciate the idea that someone might want to celebrate that by ‘letting it all loose,’ so to speak. And we are at the beach. It’s not exactly a prudish place to be. I’m wearing a bikini too.

My beef is this: in my few months in this country, I’ve found Mexicans to be some of the kindest, hardest-working people I’ve ever met. And they’re gentle. The Mexicans I’ve met are not the type to call you out on the street for doing something they don’t like. This combined with their open generosity has brought me to feeling very protective over this beautiful culture. And I feel that these people, or hippies, or whatever you’d like to call them, are taking advantage of the local pleasant disposition.

Because the overwhelming majority of the topless sunbathers and jewelry-sellers here are not Mexican. Mexicans love the beach too, but as a whole I have witnessed them also to be a very conservative, family-based culture. Most of the Mexicans that come to the beach here swim not only with all their private parts covered, they swim with all of their parts covered – in shirts, shorts, even jeans.

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The conflict is clearest to me on Sunday afternoons. Unlike the towns on either side of us, our Secret Place is not known for its hippies, and hosts a largely local crowd. But there is a small contingency that tends to linger at the calm side of the beach – the same place the families, of course, favor. And it bothers me to watch children playing a youthful soccer game while trying to avert their eyes from the topless chick who has sat herself down just a few feet away. Meanwhile, I imagine (because remember, I haven’t spoken with anyone else about this), mothers are explaining to their teenage daughters why they need to keep their shirt on while they swim.

It’s all about context. And the question of what is ‘right’ in this situation can be answered, I believe, by another question: who came first, the hippie, or the local?

Travel teaches you new perspectives. And it’s important as you move, and especially as you stay, to be sensitive to these perspectives. I know that as an American my culture is a bit oversensitive to boobies. I know there are lots of places in the world where full or partial nudity is the norm. And I know that Mexico is not one of them.

My point – When in Rome, right?

Or else, what’s the point of travel at all?

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6 thoughts on “My Problem With Hippie Culture in Mexico

  1. Wholeheartedly agree. Today, I watched a bunch of American teenagers posing in front of a sunset while grabbing each others’ boobs and butts, and were loud and obnoxious. I don’t care, but have some respect for the local families that are there trying to enjoy some time with their children after work.

  2. I lived in a couple of places in Mexico for several years. If you get out of the tourist bubble, there are LOTS of Mexican hippies, who have the same values and habits as you describe. Often their backgrounds were heavily indigenous, and they were almost always genuinely poor kids. In Spanish they spell it “jipis”, but few would describe themselves with that word, because unfortunately it has a connotation of “dirty homeless person” to the straight population (which I guess you can relate to!) The conservative culture you describe is only one part of the Mexican population. I really liked them too.

    1. You’re right! Mexico is a vast a varying country with lots of different types of people. The scenario I describe above is specific to the beach on which I bore witness to it… Maybe the better title would have been “My Problem With Hippie Culture in Certain Parts of Mexico.”

      1. Before there were Mexicans, there were indigenous people, whose values were more like the hippies. Who are you to say whose culture belongs to the land ?

      2. jloregon – WordPress won’t let me directly reply to your post (grr!) – so hopefully you see this. Thank you for reading and for sharing your thoughts. 🙂

        I wrote this post several years ago now, but upon careful reflection, I still have to stand by it (which is certainly not the case for every thought documented on this blog!). I think the crux of the problem to me at the time stemmed from the fact that the people I labeled ‘hippies’ in this post were predominantly European (largely Spanish, if I remember correctly). While the town itself was not known as indigenous in the way that a lot of other places in Central America are, I have to imagine that much of the local population had at least some indigenous roots (it is widely documented that the majority of Mexicans identify as Mestizo).

        European populations have a long history of arriving somewhere and appropriating indigenous cultures to benefit themselves (not to mention the things that happen to the parts of the culture that are not beneficial to them). The fact that these young people had the means to arrive in Mexico from far-off places in the first place clues us in to the privilege with which they choose (maybe) to adopt customs that may or may not be associated as indigenous. If they are associated with indigenous cultures, in this region it seemed to be by the practitioners themselves – the reaction of the local community led me to believe that this was not a tradition they were keen on.

        In any case, is it really fair to come in as an outsider, set yourself down in a spot, associate with others who share the same foreign background as yourself, and then call your practices indigenous or indigenous-based without the support of the local population? Even with the support of the local population, I would be inclined to look at the practice critically…

        Of course, I do caution the reader at the start of the post that these are bias opinions, which was my way of saying that I am NOT claiming the right to say whose culture belongs to the land.

        Thanks for the reminder. It’s always good to check in with myself about these things. 🙂

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