Over the holidays I, along with my partner, visited Mexico City. I grew up in the city, its culture runs roots deep into my unconscious mind. It shaped and formed me and made me who I am today. This is true for everyone’s hometown.
Are you a victim or creator? This might seem like a silly question at first, but it’s one which is asked of us every moment of our lives. And the answer we give fully determines the power we have over our lives.
This article tells the tale of two different groups of people I met while I visited Mexico over the 2020 holiday season. I believe these stories are great examples of the difference between victims and creators. My hope is that you will learn how to tell the difference between victims and creators through real-life examples I experienced.
Mexican Victims – Who’s Responsible?
On December 23rd 2020, my mother, father, brother, my brother’s romantic partner, my partner and a close family friend embarked on a journey to Oaxaca (pronounced Oa-ha-ca), the capital city of the southern Mexican state, Oaxaca. It was seven of us riding in a pickup truck, which was equipped with a camper. Two people rode in the camper while the remaining five rode in the cramped front.
We were going on a family holiday, our first one in two decades. It had been a long time since we ever went on a road trip as a family and the novelty of the experience was collectively palpable by everyone.
We set out in the morning, my father at the wheel, my partner and I riding in the back. From the back of the truck we could see the city passing us by, colored by the sepia tones of the tinted camper windows. Mexico City is chaotic; cars swerve down the streets at variably precarious speeds, vendors weave through traffic-stalled cars peddling their goods and potholes and speed bumps dot the roads at unpredictable intervals.
I am amazed that things can actually get done in the city, considering the perennial disarray which characterizes it. Goes to show that beneath all apparent disorder there is an invisible, underlying order. Those are Buckminster Fuller’s words, not mine.
All of this apparent disorder was visible from the back of the pickup truck as we drove through the city’s tumult. My partner Petra, who is Czech, was spellbound by the scenes unfolding before us as we drove.
The city’s chaos is, for the large part, foreign to her. She has traveled to other chaotic countries, like Iran and Nepal, but the experiences of living in a country compared to visiting it, provide us with different things. When you live in a country, you absorb it; it becomes a part of who you are and how you see the world.
Growing Up In Mexico City, I Learned Chaos
Like any kid, I believed life was like that everywhere. So seeing it then, through the window of the pickup’s camper, was a return to the familiar for me.
After about an hour and a half we reached the outskirts of the city; the buildings thinned out, the cacophony of car horns and shouting vendors died down and the traffic started flowing.
We were on our adventure.
The drive from Mexico City to Oaxaca is about seven hours long. About four hours into the drive we entered the Sierra Madre Oriental, a mountain range which runs from northeastern to southeastern Mexico. The vegetation changed from sparse shrubs and maintained fields to ubiquitous cacti which reached to the heavens with their tall, slender figures.
I had never seen this side of Mexico, and becoming entranced by the grandeur of the mountain range as it passed us by was a welcome relief from the cramped arrangements we were traveling in. Petra and I had moved into the front to give others the opportunity to ride in the relatively spacious back. The seat was too small for me and I was forced to keep my legs tightly wrapped in order to fit.
About six hours into our journey we had left the mountain range behind. We were close to our destination and the “destination fever” of the entire group was at its apogee.
Then we came up to a line of cars, all of which were waiting to pass through a toll booth.
The line was two kilometers long.
That’s when I learned about a curious phenomenon in Mexico which is so commonplace that no one but Petra and I were surprised to learn about it.
The Tollbooth Had Been “Taken”
This means that a group of people (probably armed) had approached the tollbooth, kicked out the staff and security detail and assumed control of it. It’s common for narcotraficantes (drug dealers) to do this; it’s a way for them to raise funds by extorting the people who need to get through the tollbooth. Usually there is no violence.
Except in this case it wasn’t drug dealers who had taken the tollbooth. It was a group of disgruntled teachers.
Most (not all) school teachers in Mexico are worse than useless, as was exemplified by the fact that our way through the tollbooth was now being barred by a group of them.
We waited at the back of the line. Over the next quarter of an hour we inched up a few dozen meters before coming to a stop, where we remained for about half an hour. Cars which were in front of us were leaving the line and backtracking, surrendering to making the 2-hour long detour around the tollbooth.
We were not going to take the detour. We had decided we were going to make it through the tollbooth.
But Nothing Was Happening!
After the first few bursts of movement there had been no more. We were stuck at a little under two kilometers away from the tollbooth.
So my mother and I decided to walk up the road to the tollbooth and see what was up. My mother was determined to give the teachers a piece of her mind. I was determined to ensure my mother didn’t do anything too rash. She has mellowed out in her later years, but she can still kick a hornet’s nest like no one else can.
So we walked up the road, passing countless cars filled with frustrated motorists. Until we came up to the tollbooth, where a group of people wearing face masks stood barring the way.
My Mother Lead The Way
She immediately made her way to one of the people blocking our way, a young woman, and began asking her to let us all pass. As she did this I looked around the tollbooth and saw the signs which had been stuck onto the columns and booths:
“Mr. Governor, we have problems too.”
The signs said something in Spanish to that effect. It was at this point that I realized that the people who had taken the tollbooth were a bunch of self-identified victims, and nothing we said or did was going to convince them to give up their control to let us pass. These people were so convinced they were being ignored by the government, that it was someone else’s responsibility to swoop in and fix their problems for them, that they had banded together and forced their needy, powerless mindset on people who had nothing to do with their predicament.
These people were limiting our freedom of movement because they felt their life circumstances allowed them to do so.
Victims Seek To Disempower Others
Victims want to bring others down to their level. Creators and leaders seek to empower, to raise others up.
I kept silent, listening to my mother and a few other motorists who were arguing with the victims. My mother and co. were attempting to appeal to the victims’ sense of empathy, to get them to see that they were negatively affecting people who had nothing to do with their predicament.
After entreating the young lady to allow us to pass, to no avail, my mother and the others moved to another of the victims who was blocking our way. A man with a sweatshirt hood on his head, as well as a mask.
My mother can be incredibly persuasive and stubborn as an ox when she wants to be. She walked right up to one of the people who had been marked as a “leader” of the victims and began convincing him to let us pass.
More people joined in. The discussion continued for about 10 more minutes.
Finally, the victims decided to let a few dozen vehicles pass, those which were closest to the toll booth.
Our Vehicle Was Not Included
So we didn’t make it through. But instead of complaining we looked for an alternative solution. Which we found in short order.
We managed to drive the truck close enough to a side road which allowed us to bypass the main toll. The toll booth on the side road was also “taken”, by the same group of people. We paid the victims the amount of the toll and they let us pass.
It had all been a shakedown, a way to illegally fleece motorists so the victims could support themselves. The victims bar the way, wait for people to get angry/desperate, then allow people to pass while charging them for it. It had nothing, if anything, to do with political discontent.
It Was All About Money, In The End
Can you see how the victim mentality plays out in the story? How people can become so convinced they are powerless to change their own situation that they expect a saviour to come in and rescue them? Victims are convinced the environment is the cause of their woes and there is nothing they can do to change it. Which is false. If you’re a human being you always have control over any situation, because you can control your perception. And what we perceive is what makes our reality.
An hour later we arrived at our destination and had a grand time in Oaxaca City as a family.
That night we walked around the center of Oaxaca.
The next day we went to the world-famous archaeological site, Monte Alban.
And much more I don’t need to get into!
The story of the disgruntled teachers will for ever serve as a reminder to me of what the victim mentality is like. I saw firsthand how people can surrender their power to create their life circumstances as they desire. Victims become totally convinced someone other than them is responsible for their life circumstances.
But it wasn’t the only memorable story I encountered on our trip to Mexico. What comes next is a story of an individual who approached his life as the creator of his circumstances.
Mexican Creators – Journey To Tepoztlán
Petra and I were in Mexico for 20 days. After our family trip to Oaxaca, Petra and I decided to take another trip to a magic town named Tepoztlán, in the state of Morelos. A “magic town” is one which has been designated a place of cultural, culinary, historic or natural interest by the Mexican Secretariat of Tourism.
We took an hour-long bus from Tasqueña, the southern bus terminal. We arrived at Tepoztlán at 7 o’clock at night on a Sunday. We were unsure of which way to go and walked about in circles for a few minutes before we found the way to the center of the town, which is where our Airbnb was.
After a 20-minute walk, during which we took in the vibrant evening energy of Tepoztlán, we arrived at our place, La Casa Blanca. Our host/concierge was named Plácida, and after a brief introduction to the pair of resident dogs, named Maya and Sancho, we were shown to our room. We walked through the spacious garden and were immediately struck by the beauty of the place. It was a lush, verdant garden, filled with exotic trees and plants. Even in the darkness we could appreciate its beauty.
After a brief walk/dinner, we turned in for the night.
The Next Day We Booked Temazcal Ceremony
A temazcal is a mesoamerican cleansing ritual performed in a darkened clay hut. It’s like a sauna in the dark. It is performed with a guide/shaman, who leads you through a process of releasing stagnant negative emotions by chanting, singing and visualizing. The guide modulates the heat of the sauna to encourage the flow of emotional energy. While I don’t know the science behind how temazcales work, they do. Temazcal was/is considered medicine by those who practiced/practice it. Tepoztlán is famous for them.
After the temazcal we felt refreshed and relaxed. The rest of the day we dedicated to walking through Tepoztlán and taking in the unique beauty of the place.
Tepoztlán Is Filled With Murals
This one was my personal favorite, it shows a xoloitscuintli, the Mexican hairless dog.
Tepoztlán is nestled in a valley surrounded by verdant mountains on roughly 60% of its perimeter.
We also scheduled a sunrise hike for the next day. This is where I encountered a Mexican Creator.
Mexican Creators – Our Mountain Guide
Our hike began at 6:00 AM the next morning. We were going to hike up a (small) mountain, where we would be able to see the break of dawn over the horizon as the sun illumined the valley of Tepoztlán as well as the archaeological site for which Tepoztlán was famous.
The archaeological site enclosed a pyramid, la Pirámide del Tepozteco, which is perched on the side of the Tepozteco mountain, like a magnificent jaguar overlooking the valley. It was closed to the public due to government restrictions imposed due to COVID (which are utter nonsense, the restrictions, not the virus. I’m unafraid of writing truth). The best way to see the pyramid was by hiking up the adjacent mountain and looking down upon it.
The morning was warm and dark as obsidian. Our guide met us outside of our accommodation a little after six. He was driving a vehicle which was a cross between a four-door sedan and a pickup truck. He greeted us politely as we hopped into his car.
As he drove us to the trailhead he told us about his life. His name was Joaquin, and up until the beginning of 2020 he had been a tour guide at the archaeological site. Then the COVID restrictions came into place, the archaeological site was closed and he lost his livelihood.
He Was Telling, Not Complaining
And I heard not a shred of complaint in his voice. On the contrary, he seemed excited to continue telling us about his life.
Immediately after he told us about how he lost his livelihood he continued by telling us about how he and the other tour guides adapted to the new circumstances. The archaeological site was closed, but that didn’t mean he and the other guides didn’t have options for making a living.
Joaquin told us about how some guides decided to start giving tours around Tepoztlán. How others decided to start selling face masks and hand sanitizer. And how he decided to start giving sunrise and sunset tours in the mountains around Tepoztlán.
Immediately after Joaquin told us that story I had him seized up. This was a man who took a proactive attitude to the challenges life threw at him. The day the archaeological site was closed, instead of throwing up his hands and complaining about his rotten luck, he decided to reinvent himself, to put his mind to work for him and come up with a solution to his predicament.
And He Had Succeeded
Joaquin didn’t expect someone to come solve his problems for him. He didn’t blame the government for taking his livelihood. He put his thinking cap on and adapted himself to the reality of his life circumstances. He became an active creator of his life.
And he was now driving a pair of customers up a mountain road and was about to guide them through the forest in the umber of early morning to witness a splendorous sunrise from the side of a mountain.
What a stylish solution to his problem! I know people who work indoors all day and don’t get to have a tenth as much fun as Joaquin on a regular day!
As we walked up the mountain in darkness, Joaquin lead the way with a flashlight, pointing it down at the ground so that we could secure our footing. After a few minutes of walking we reached a place where, if there had been enough light, we could have seen the pyramid. But it was too dark at the time, so we continued hiking up.
We walked for about ten more minutes when Joaquin stopped us and pointed his flashlight at the ground. There were tracks. Joaquin said they belonged to a large feline, a lynx or possibly a jaguar (named ocelote, in the region). He said that animals were attracted to the area because the only watering hole around was located there.
We walked some more and Joaquin stopped us and pointed to a pile of fresh droppings, which he explained probably belonged to the cat which had left the tracks behind us.
A Chorus Of Birds…
Sunlight began streaming into the forest, and Joaquin told us that within a few minutes a chorus of birds would begin singing.
Sure enough, after a few more minutes birdsong began filling the morning air around us. It was magical. Joaquin could name each of the birds based on their song; the only name I remember him mentioning is jilguero.
A few more minutes of hiking and we made it to the summit. It had taken us about an hour to get there.
There, Petra and I were treated to one of the most spectacular sunrises we had ever witnessed. The photos we took don’t do it justice.
We saw the pyramid, and I began asking questions of Joaquin, which he confidently answered. We stood a the summit for about thirty minutes, discussing the challenges faced by Mexico, its history and humanity’s evolving relationship with nature. Joaquin believes it’s essential for children to be exposed to nature so that they grow into adults who treasure and protect it. I told him I couldn’t agree more, that while growing up in Mexico City, which is a forest of concrete, the only time I immersed myself in nature was when my parents sent me to summer camp in Canada.
The Natural Beauty Of Mexico
I never even knew that Mexico had tremendous natural beauty to offer until I was a young adult. And even then, my awareness of the fact was superficial. We have a responsibility to our heritage to travel around our homeland. If we don’t, we are sure to miss out on parts of ourselves. Because we carry our home wherever we go, and if we’re not aware of what is in our home, we will also be unaware of things within us.
We hiked down the mountain, took a picture with Joaquin and he then drove us back down to Tepoztlán.
The rest of our trip was just as amazing as what came before it. I will always remember the time I met a Joaquin; a person who, in the face of adversity, rolled up his sleeves and got to creating.
His story inspired me to write this article. If you ever go to Tepoztlán, make sure you ask for Joaquin if you want a top notch tour around the area. If you’re interested in staying at La Casa Blanca, send me an email. Sancho and Maya are wonderful!
In Conclusion, Are You A Victim? Or A Creator?
This is the first article I write which involves a detailed description of an adventure in my life, complete with photographs. My hope was to illustrate how what you learn at Explode Your Wealth can come in handy to you in your daily life.
Opportunities to grow and connect with others abound, but only if we open ourselves to them. Challenges are a fact of life; we never reach a state where life will no longer challenges us; that’s the beauty and fun of being alive.
I hope that this article inspires you to observe your life and ask yourself in what parts of it you can switch from being a victim to being a creator.
To our wealth and success.