Understanding the Mexican Social Structure

Mexicans, like every other culture, have a social scale that they abide by. I think it’s safe to say that here, the social scale (your place in society) is the best way to measure the classes, of which there are a few.

When living here, it doesn’t take long to see the massive differences in the classes of people, however, what is difficult is learning to accept them. At least that’s the way it was for me.

I recall one of my first lessons was from a then-friend who one day said to me, “There are men we do not date. One is workers of construction and the other are waiters in restaurants.” She was serious…and right. I’m not sure about the restaurant waiters, but she was dead-on about the construction workers.

I’ve since learned them to be the most unkempt and uneducated of the social groups. In this state, most arrive from interior villages having never seen a “city” before let alone anything else. Crossing their paths is an experience, to say the least.


When I lived in Cancun I lived in an old, inexpensive area of the city that I quickly learned was a neighborhood of low-class citizens. These folks were, for the most part, uneducated past grade school (which constitutes approximately 80 percent of the population), were not very social, not even among themselves and were hard to get along with.

They were also very unaccepting of my existence in their neighborhood.

Regardless, living among this class of people meant loose dogs and dog feces everywhere. They simply didn’t clean up after their pets, let alone confine them. Ever. There was stray garbage everywhere, even though city dumpsters were nearby. If you had a complaint (about the loose dogs or dog poo) you were told go go **** yourself. They simply didn’t care about anyone or anything.

Again, this behavior was not reserved only for me. That’s just how they treated one another. Physical altercations, especially on Sunday — family day when the men of the houses drink — were common.

When I moved to Playa del Carmen, the new suburb community I picked eventually filled with similar folks, except they were lower middle-class, but still shared many of the same characteristics as their low-class amigos.

While dogs were confined in proper yards, poo was rarely picked up, houses not maintained according to the condo codes and the familiar standoffish neighbor tone was abundant. One big difference I noticed with this group was jealousy.

Neighbors were not shy about asking none-of-their-business questions like “why you live in that house by yourself” when they lived in the same sized house with five or more others. Is what they really meant was “how do you live in that house by yourself” because it wasn’t something they could afford to do on their own but secretly wished they could. They took no shame in asking how much something cost or how much you paid for this or that.

Constant stares, being sized up and measured was a near-daily occurrence, not only for me, but for everyone on the street. It was like a silent competition that secretly existed between all the lower middle-class. It was hard to ignore, but I did learn. They too were snitty and despised being told their dog was barking. A similar go **** yourself attitude. I lived there five years.

After leaving that neighborhood I relocated to a nicer suburb of Playa del Carmen that I could finally afford. It was an old established neighborhood of independent houses. Everyone was pretty equal with nice cars and clean yards. Community rules were respected. Privacy was respected. This group of upper middle-class was completely different from the other two I’d known.

My experiences with the various classes took several years, but was a huge asset to learning the system and understanding the people and the local culture and was a great learning experience to living in Mexico.