I stopped at a supermarket tonight, one of those non-chain sordid grocery stores where the produce is cheap but undersized and wilted. The aisles are lined with a plethora of processed items with all the uniform boxy appearance such food is housed in. Slick and artificially constructed containers, excessively colorful packaging and alarmingly standard cookie-cutter in shape. This market is not necessarily in the barrio or ghetto, but it’s “adjacent,” to put it mildly. The customer base, if I was forced to summarize it the best I can, is largely Mexican-American, primarily of the first generation variety. There are pockets of immigrant Mexicans who shop there, and the market has a small meat and deli area which might appeal to the Mexican immigrant due to its offerings of marinated meat cuts, freshly mixed salsa and pickled chili’s. This side of the store, the “real” Mexican side, curiously, offers more “clean” foods whereas the remainder of the store, which I would call the Mexican-American side, is stocked to the brim with processed foods. This is not the store of choice for immigrant Mexicans in the neighborhood because there are plenty of supermarkets which appeal specifically to that segment of the public. There are supermarkets around here that are truly hard-core Meximarts, as I call them. If you didn’t know, you might think you were in a grocery store south of the border. Pickled pig’s feet included.
Shopping in both environments basically reiterates what I’ve noticed about the Mexican population when viewed from dual perspective of “immigrant” vs “1st generation.” The “vibe” is vastly different. I can only conclude that “Americanization” is mildly destructive and dilutes the favorable qualities of the Mexican character. Immigrant Mexicans, while poorer and less privy to the sumptuous perks of American citizenship, are generally more tolerable and well-mannered than their US-born counterparts. My shopping experiences in Meximarts, while at times chaotic and anarchic, is gentler on the psyche. The cashiers and customers are a tad more respectful and conscientious and even a bit more subdued in the tacky, visual affront department. Perhaps you can say they are “simple” in a more genuinely rustic measure. They have not been tainted by the hypnotic splendor of American society and there is just that much less of pretentiousness or class bitterness to bear from the Meximart immigrant crowd.
But just walk into a ghetto market catering to young, first-generation Mexican-Americans and the sensation is entirely different. Having been born and raised amidst the delusions and pomposities of American pop culture, this crowd has been mesmerized by the spoils of a land they can’t have and in turn cheaply mimic an existence that exists in fantastical notions of self-righteousness. Born here, these class of people assume the entitled and complacent petulance of an antagonistic prisoner. There is a distinct lack of social grace or niceties. There are no manners, no courteousness, so smiles. Customer service is shit in these places. Many of the cashiers are unfriendly and simmer behind stand-offish attitudes of apparent resentment. An undercurrent oozes from their shit attitude; it’s as if they are emitting a meta stream of bitterness which scolds, “I deserve better than this.”
The difference can be traced to one simple factor: expectations.
The immigrant has grown up and lived a large part of his life in an alternate reality 3rd World hellhole of diminished wants and rewards. This shapes and downsizes one’s mindset while tempering the ego. The first generationer, on the other hand, has grown up amidst the spectral visions of Western consumerism and celebrity. Despite the fact this brand of existence, this vision of another world quite different from ghetto life, still distends its roots into their heads and there is something about growing up in the land of plenty and opportunity which leads to a self-delusional sense of expectation when it is blended with a repulsive dose of entitlement. He is spoiled of mind.
The American dream is a corrupter today.