Wednesday, May 26, 2010
world drinking cup
Don't drink the water.
It was probably myth #3 I heard from almost everyone when I headed south to Mexico.
Drink only bottled water. Use water with iodine to wash all foods.
Of course, there were naysayers. Expatriates who had lived in Mexico for years, who drank straight from the tap, and never washed their vegetables and fruits. If asked, I am certain they would say they never washed their hands. Just to prove their point.
You may have noticed the term "myth" in that second sentence. I am using it in its narrative sense: a tale that embodies a Truth.
The Truth is that people in Mexico use bottled water in the same manner that some older women use Lavender and rose water. Lots.
Here are the numbers. An average Mexican consumes 234 liters of bottled water each year. (For those of you who are metrically challenged, that is about 62 gallons.) Making it the top per capita user in the world. Mexico consumes 13% of the world's bottled water supply.
That is World Cup drinking.
There are two reasons why Mexicans drink that much bottled water.
The first is the most obvious. Almost all Mexican homes have running water. The problem is the infrastructure for bringing that water to homes is faulty. As a result, most of the water has been exposed to various forms of pollutants. Some that can cause worse results than an upset stomach.
Interestingly, the government claims 85% of processed water in municipalities is potable. Mexicans do not believe it. Considering some of the misinformation they hear from their politicians, not drinking the water is a mild political protest.
Several Mexican bloggers have pointed out that open streams of water in their communities often turn into running cesspools. I recognize the syndrome. In the mid-1950s I saw a lot of the same activity in southern Oregon.
The second reason is becoming more common. Some areas of Mexico, with potable tap water, simply do not have an adequate supply of water to meet a household's daily needs. It is a sad commentary that many middle class families in Mexico City fall into that category.
Bottled water tends to be a fad in The States. In Mexico, it is a matter of survival.
More than one writer has noted that Mexico appears to be where America was fifty or sixty years ago. Pollution and litter seem to fall into that category.
The problem is that litter and pollution tend to come together when bottled water is discussed. All of those little plastic containers are beginning to show up across Mexico -- as if the eagle and cactus was to be replaced by a bottle on sparkling water.
It took time for people north of the border to deal with their national pollution and litter issues. Mexico will need some time to get to the same point.
And there are some hopeful signs. The young people in my village regularly put together litter teams to clean up the beaches and the streets.
Unfortunately, they cannot clean up the water. That task is governmental.
And I will drink the water. As soon as I know I can.