This community of more than 11,000 people, about a 30-minute drive from Guadalajara, has long been one of the most popular destinations for thousands of Americans and Canadians. Over the generations, Americans have coexisted with their hosts, so-called Tapatios, as Mexicans are known in this western region in the state of Jalisco.
It’s a coexistence that’s largely worked because of mutual tolerance. Residents-turned-unofficial diplomats describe it as a marriage of convenience. The relationship mirrors the complicated ties between the U.S. and Mexico. It’s never been without tensions.
Taxi driver Gustavo Villaseñor, 34, says he often feels degraded when American passengers tell him he should learn English to earn better tips.
“I just nod my head and smile,” he said. “It’s humiliating, but why make it worse? Things are volatile enough that you don’t want the simmering fire to get out of control. You have to remember that we’re dealing with a man [Trump] who’s not all there, someone who inspires hate.”
Villaseñor sees the divisiveness exported to Ajijic from the U.S. via cable news and talk radio courtesy of WiFi. He recalls seeing Americans, divided by Trump, throw punches in the picturesque plaza as Americans and Canadians sipped their cappuccinos and Mexican cab drivers and police looked on in disbelief.
“Finally, one of them walked away and the fight ended,” he said. “It was bizarre because everyone acted like nothing happened. But this massacre in El Paso is very upsetting because of what he did. You can’t ignore that.”
The confessed El Paso shooter, Patrick Crusius, 21, of Allen, surrendered to a motorcycle officer minutes after the massacre and said he was targeting Mexicans. Before the first shots were fired, an unsigned manifesto that reads more like a rant, titled “The Inconvenient Truth,” appeared online. Police say the author was Crusius who, in part, wrote that he feared the “Hispanic invasion” of Texas would lead to a “political coup.”
The rant omits the fact that the U.S. Southwest and beyond once belonged to Mexico.
“Who invaded who?” asked Michael Hogan, originally from Rhode Island and now a Guadalajara-based poet, historian and author of Abraham Lincoln and Mexico. “I’m astounded by the ignorance of Americans. The rhetoric has to go beyond Democrats and Republicans, Trump and AMLO,” Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrardor.
“We must get to the root of the problem because kids are being separated and now people are dying,” he said. “We need solutions, not hatred.”