For as long as I can remember there has always been the undercurrent commentary and the crude jokes about “dirty” and “greasyMexicans. Not a day goes by when someone does not stereotype Mexicans as “lazy,” “dirty” or “gritty”. The City of El Paso even went so far as to pay a company to describe the Mexicans using these very words. (Glass Beach) It is a stereotype that I always questioned not because I am a Mexican citizen but from my plain observations since my childhood on through adult hood of those around me. I have had the benefit of spending time, sometimes in very close quarters, with individuals from many cultures in many different countries. When it came to hygiene, I always noticed that the stereotypes never melded with my observations.

Stereotypes are stereotypes because they have no reality as a basis but in fact are based on nothing more then fiction. Unfortunately, it is human nature to exaggerate or ignore the truth in order to make one person feel power over another. This is true from the individual on up to governments who perpetuate stereotypes for personal agendas.

That is why an article in The Atlantic caught my attention. The February 17, 2015 article, “How Often People in Various Countries Shower” by Olga Khazan discussed the hygiene habits of the people of various countries.

The article reference a Euromonitor poll from July 2014 asking how many times a person showers. The poll tabulated the results on a per country basis. According to the author’s interpretation, US citizens “are fairly average when it comes to hygiene” when compared to the other respondents. The article states that US citizens shower more than Chinese, the British and the Japanese, attesting that US citizens shower at least five days a week. The Brazilians and the Columbians take more than one shower a day, according to the author’s interpretation of the poll results.

The poll also revealed that people from Mexico shower a little over seven days a week, apparently, we shower more than once in a given day, and that we use shampoo every time we shower. This is more than US citizens, who use shampoo about four times a week.

This poll directly correlates with my own personal observations of various people from different countries and cultures. The article also reference a 2008 study by hygiene-products company SCA.

The thirty-four page report was very enlightening and further supported what my personal observations have been and proved the stereotypes to be completely wrong. The “Hygiene Matters; The SCA Hygiene Report 2008” states that people in “Russia, China and Mexico” are most worried about hygiene issues.

The report published various graphs detailing the results about hygiene from a survey of individuals in Australia, France, China, Germany, México, Russia, the UK, Sweden, and the USA. When asked about being “concerned about getting sick because of poor hygiene,” Mexicans overwhelmingly agreed showing a response rate of about 60%. The USA came in second at 30%.

Interestingly when asked if the respondents were “concerned about being infected” when in close proximity with other people, Mexicans were the least concerned showing a response rate of less than 10%. China, Germany and Sweden were the most concerned, according to the results of the survey.

The report goes on to show how Mexicans, of the countries included in the survey, clean their homes the most. The report reports that 80% of the Mexicans surveyed clean their homes at least twice a week. The US came in at sixth place of the countries in the survey.

According to the SCA report, almost 90% of the Mexican respondents shower at least once a day, higher than the 70% response rate of the US respondents. This correlates with my personal observations and those of the Euromonitor poll.

Clearly, the results of these two studies prove that the stereotypes perpetuated by the uninformed or the agenda-driven are wrong. Every time I try to have a discussion about the realities versus the stereotypes, the debate ends with the challenge to prove it. Today, I did just that.

For those interested in more details, I encourage you to Google the SCA report because it has more detailed information about the hygiene habits between gender and the different countries.

Martin Paredes

Martín Paredes is a Mexican immigrant who built his business on the U.S.-Mexican border. As an immigrant, Martín brings the perspective of someone who sees México as a native through the experience...

6 replies on “Mexican Hygiene”

  1. There will always be jealousy, dislike, competition between people regardless of similar cultures. We could all look exactly the same, then it would be narrow to place of residence, wealth or religion. Thats just the nature of the beast.

    Friendships develop from common interests in most cases. Alliances from common interest. Marriages, should out of love for each other. We have to stop the idea of being better than others or revenge for a past horrible experience. Folks, we’re all we have to get thru life on this earth.

    Unfortunately, there is always someone that wants to be the top dog and that’s where it begins.

    Martin, although you have experienced many cultures. I’m not sure that you are being fair or have an uneasy feeling about being Mexican. Some of the blogs proach the topic of prejudice towards Mexicans. What is utter amazing is the claim to El Paso being prejudice towards us. Look around, listen, read. This is a mixed culture city but the Mexicans are the majority. If anything, I have noticed a lot of discriminations towards whites. Of course that causes resentment among the whites. That starts a cycle.

    The other prejudice is interracial. Although we might be of the same nationality or ethicity, my skin is darker or lighter or taller than you or thinner or financial advantage. The worst in El Paso is politics. I have never seen or heard so much hatred over politics.

    Why someone felt a need for a bathing poll is beyond me. All people are clean, some what clean or dirty. Regardless of the reasons. Diseases are transmitted via various transfers. And sometimes the cleanest person will get the disease while the dirty person is bypassed by disease. Kind of like the pedigree vs junkyard dog.

    What we need to do is spend more time and effort to find common ground and less on differences. Mingle more with other groups. You’ll learn that they’re really no different good or bad.

    I can remember while overseas, seeing people with no facilities public or private. Yet they made the effort to walk to the nearest watering hole to bathe quite often. Then I would see people with the best in sanitation, plumbing, etc avoid cleanliness

    So let’s find a way to accept one another and get on with life.

  2. It is the abysmal healthcare that Mexicans receive that is the concern here, not how much they shower. Their mass immigration is bringing diseases into the US like TB and others that had been previously eradicated.

    As for personal hygiene, try working around Germans 🙂

  3. Good point, however it leaves the misleading impression that only Mexicans are crossing the border.

    With the increase in commercial transportation and visitors to the US it is very possible that some could be carriers. With the refusal of some families refusal to be vaccinated and traveling, could be the cause of the latest health problem.

    Martin is correct that sterotypying and racism lays the blame on Mexicans. In reality everybody is climbing the fence and US citizens are traveling everywhere.

  4. Interesting concepts.

    When European (White) ambassadors wanted to see Bobadil, they had to bath and clean for 30 days before. Not a popular endeavor.

    Cortez also had to be cleaned before seeing Moctezuma. The Spaniards consider the Aztec custom of bathing 3 times a day a form of paganism. Records show that an Aztec was put to death for contaminating the air of his neighbors.

    Americans are born with low PH (acidic) skin, over our lifetimes our skin becomes high PH (alkaline). We have one of the highest levels of skin cancer.

    I for one, attest that my descendants, like most of my ancestry, will be multi-cultural, multi-race, and at least bilingual. I say the future is here and there is only the human race, all this bull about the bathrooms is, as a matter of fact, as disposable as the paper most referred to.

    The only thing I am not sure of is if eating Tacos will change your DNA.

  5. The only thing I am not sure of is if eating Tacos will change your DNA.
    Chicos’ might.

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