Mexico facts of the day

From the Mexican census, via Andrew Sullivan:

In 1990, one in five dwellings had a bare-earth floor. Now only 6% do. … More interesting still is what Mexicans put in those homes. More houses have televisions (93%) than fridges (82%) or showers (65%). In a hot country with dreadful television this is curious.

I don’t find this puzzling at all.  A lot of Mexico has elevated altitude and many of the homes are open air.  Mexican TV is more fun than taking a shower, too.


"In a hot country with dreadful television this is curious."

I'm calling a technical. Humans are humans. In a crappy country humans want escapism. I happen to be a rich white guy in the USA but if I were a poor Mexican I'd prefer a TV to a fridge or shower also.

It isn't curious. You guys are just fags who don't understand human nature.

Really? While a long time reader of MR, this is my first foray in a long while into the comments. I was greeted by xenophobia and homophobia. How disappointing.

What was the xenophobic part?

Yeah. I normally only traffic in homophobia.

I'm doing my part to popularize the use of the word fag in a non-homosexual context. If you think only homosexuals can be fags, then it is you who are the homophobe.

keep up the good work.

How many words are there these days you can't speak in polite company? I can only think of 4. But I will use them as often as I can. I believe in shooting sacred cows.

You can't give a number and then not enumerate them. What would George Carlin do?

If you're the only one who smells good in a neighborhood full of stinky people, you get no social advantage.

If you've managed to live for years without a fridge, you know how to shop to have fresh food. A fridge just makes it possible to wait a day longer to go to the shop.

TV, though, keeps you in the loop. Updates you social trends. It also babysits the kids (and if Caplan is right, that's no big deal). Maybe keeps the teens out of trouble.

As a mexican who lived that type of life as a kid right until going to college, I find strange this elitists comments. First, not having a shower means that you take a bath in the bathroom with water from a bucket, not that you stop taking baths altoghether. Using the bucket is a sign of poverty, but is way better to not having TV. Besides, Television in Mexico is pretty good for entertainment for most people. Andrew Sullivan is really a snob, who thinks that everybody lives in Manhattan and have access to all the nice stuff he has always taken for granted.

In 1950 only 70% of households in the US had refrigerator but over 90% had a radio.

Yes, and I believe that at the beginning of the 20th century, more American homes had pianos than indoor toilets. I can't turn up that stat with a quick search, but I did find that as of 1940, nearly half (45%) of American homes still had an outhouse, so in 1940, it wouldn't' be surprising at all if there was a greater penetration of radios than indoor plumbing. All perfectly understandable -- I'd rather have to live without indoor plumbing than the internet myself.

I’d rather have to live without indoor plumbing than the internet myself.

I have lived without indoor plumbing both with and without internet, as well as indoor plumbing with and without internet, and I'd choose internet over toilets every time. Running water's nice, though, and a drain is the most important of all. Drains are awesome.

The TVs provide the Soap, so vital in a hot country ?

Adding a shower to a house that doesn't have one is significantly more expensive and difficult than purchasing a TV.

Also, you can only decide to install a shower if you own your own house.

Also, if your neighborhood doesn't have running water, installing a working shower is more expensive still.

Mankind has an infinite demand for entertainment.

Joan, the US refrigerator statistic is not surprising given that in 1950, (a) many Americans still lived in boarding houses or apartment houses without individual kitchens, and (b) many Americans still had iceboxes rather than electric fridges (as a kid in Southern California in the 1960's, living in a new track of homes, I can recall that the ice wagon still made twice-weekly rounds and we had neighbors who still bough blocks of ice for their iceboxes, I assume mostly as supplements to their electrics, but it goes to show the longevity of the things.)

And as to the television versus refrigerator phenomena, I have lived in both Mexico and Indonesia, in areas with regular power outages. In both cases, with the families with whom I lived, the TV was on in all waking hours, regardless of whether it was being watched and when there were outages, the emergency power would usually be used to keep the TV on rather than the fridge. The constantly-on TV is a phenomena, I've often encountered in developing countries and I've heard several explanations — it's a emblem of wealth or modernity, or that leaving it on and loud was important so that one could share the utility with neighbors and guests.

Also, if the power goes out, you can turn the tv back on in a few days without losing anything. The same isn't true of the fridge.

Not surprising. Go to any Latin American poverty-stricken town. You lose count of all of the mud huts that have stereo systems and TVs.

In one place I visited, the government had recently announced that they were going to install electricity, and they were in the process of doing so. People bought TVs before they bought light bulbs.

Goooo stereotypes!

I think that Mexico is approaching the point where emigration to the USA will dramatically slow. It did not take Italy reaching a similar level of income to the USA to slow Italian emigration to the USA. I expect that Mexicans will behave in a similar way.

BTW Mexico has a 2 tiered healthcare system.

"Public health care delivery, on the other hand, is accomplished via an elaborate provisioning and delivery system put in place by the Mexican Federal Government."

Since most people seem to, at least in theory, prefer government provision of service like health care (though not me, as I hate to deal with Gov.) just a little improvement could dramatically slow emigration and maybe even get some to go in the other direction.

That would be true if they let Yankees drill for oil there, but their incompetent state owned oil company can't find ugly at a feminist book signing. Half of the Gulf of Mexico is in Mexican water yet while the entire U.S. half is filled with drilling rigs -- or was until Obama put a stop to that --- the Mexican half isn't explored any further than knee deep. That is of course because they are still a revolutionary government who believe Mexican oil belongs to the Mexicans and therefore they keep it all safely hidden in the ground.

Their protectionist, statist government is backwards and corrupt -- and stupid enough to have been talked into the War on Drugs by the USA. It's almost as if Steve Sailer were running things down there.

But he isn't, so you'll just have to accept that the Iberians are corrupt and the Meso-Americans are dull and cowed.

Why is Chile so non-corrupt compared to all their neighbors? Do they have different genetics -- or do they merely have better institutions? They look the same as their corrupt neighbors in Argentina so I'm guessing it's institutions not Human Biodiversity that makes the difference.

Also, Colombia and Venezuela are like twins separated at birth, yet one country is lazy and corrupt and the other isn't. Why?

"hy is Chile so non-corrupt compared to all their neighbors? Do they have different genetics..."

More German, Italian and Adriatic. Not the be-all and end-all, but probably enough to make a difference. We could try an experiment: move large numbers of Mexicans to LA and see what they do with the place.

"Also, Colombia and Venezuela are like twins separated at birth, yet one country is lazy and corrupt and the other isn’t."

Alvaro Uribe and Hugo Chavez. It's just uncanny. Like twins separated at birth.

mmmm, you can take a bath without a that really difficult to understand? Showers only work when there is a pipeline filled with water under pressure and/or plastic reservoirs in every home roof. what if you live far away from public services, you can dig a well and clean yourself with that water, but having a pump and electricity (solar power) is way more expensive than a TV working with a car battery.

"Alvaro Uribe and Hugo Chavez. It’s just uncanny. Like twins separated at birth."

So you are blaming the politics not the genetics of the population. I agree.

Your claim that Chileans are more European than Argentinians is something to behold.

I suppose the differences between North and South Korea are easily explained by Human Biodiversity also.

As Sailer might say: "North Korea is the hell hole it is because it is full of North Koreans." "South Korea is thriving because it is full of South Koreans."

"I suppose the differences between North and South Korea are easily explained by Human Biodiversity also."

No, but the differences between Koreans and Congolese are.

"We could try an experiment: move large numbers of Mexicans to LA and see what they do with the place."

I think you're being humorous here; this experiment has been tried, and the results are apparent for all to see (if they want to, that is).

"Your claim that Chileans are more European than Argentinians is something to behold."

But your implicit suggestion that they are ethnically akin to Mexicans is also quite wrong.

If you live on $2 a day, you likely don't buy more than a day's worth of food. Sometimes you may not have food at all. What's a fridge's use to you? If you live on $2 a day, you probably live in a shanty with no indoor plumbing. How can you install a shower? You probably get your water from a community pump. If you live on $2 a day, TV is the cheapest form of entertainment you can have. You probably steal electricity from public electric poles anyway so you can have power for your TV.

Does Mexican TV have a lot of shower scenes?

Yeah, Mexico can be funny like that. Keep in mind that about 1/5 the country's population live in the Mexico City metropolitan area, which as Tyler notes, is high altitude and not hot at all. Well, maybe for a week a year.

I always found it ironic that the tiniest abode, however humble, had a TV antenna, especially taking into account how execrable TV programming in Mexico is, but tv-novelas is the opium of the masses there (or was still 15 years ago).

Also, in contrast to so many people living in one city, a majority of the population still lives in rural areas. Taking showers out of a bucket, directly from a hose, or on the "arroyo" (river), still happens.

A last point, while a fading "tradition", still a plenty of mexicans eat "fresh", as in made-for-the-day with ingredients of-the-day, food. Still during the 80's I remember my mom would go buy groceries every day, tortillas, every day, pan (bread), every day.

A lot has changed already, but well, a little perspective.

I'm not sure if Tyler was being funny, but if there are communal places to bathe it honestly makes more sense to buy a tv before installing a shower - also the installation of shower depends on a regular supply of water.

Installing a tv also needs a regular supply of electricity but that is usually much cheaper to arrange (by using portable generators). Arranging a regular supply of water is pretty nearly impossible without local government.

I can't believe that the 28th commenter was the first to point this out.

To correct a misperception some of the other commentators had, it was Andrew Sullivan who made the dumb comment about Mexico, not Tyler. Tyler pointed out one reason why it was dumb.

Among the other things pointed out here, most of the populated part of Mexico is not really hot -its on a high plateau- and Mexican television isn't dreadful at all.

I can find lots of battery powered TVs for a hundred bucks, but no battery powered refrigerators for a hundred bucks, nor a clue how to put in a battery powered shower for a hundred bucks.

Exactly! It is much easier to find a second hand TV than a second hand refrigerator. People don't recycle refrigerators as often as they recycle their TV's.

Using buckets instead of showers is a more rational choice; you conserve a lot of water that way. If the water bill was excessive, people would use buckets instead of showers, even if they had showers with running water around the clock.

It wasn't even Andrew who condemned Mexican TV, it was a nameless Latin American correspondent for the Economist. Sullivan was just commenting. Personally I can think of nothing on Mexican TV as bad as UK reality shows, so it must just be a cultural misunderstanding, the general ignorance of Mexican conditions though is sadly par for the course in the Economist lately. Its decline is astonishing.

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