August 2, 2010

... But Is It True?

I love It's a site that examines all of the urban myths flying across the internet, then deploys a team to find out the truth behind them. Let's face it, we all enjoy receiving e-mails or seeing forum posts with these stories in them. They outrage, amuse, scandalize, entertain or terrify us; but are they true? They aren't a problem until a falsehood is widely accepted as truth. Then a reputation can be damaged irreparably. Enter Snopes.

Just for fun, I decided to search the site for the urban myths concerning Mexico. There were 152 of them! Here are some of the biggies:

Mexican Pet

This story has many variations on a theme, involving different countries. The common thread is that someone, usually a woman, has visited Mexico as a tourist. She picks up a small dog, which she identifies as a Mexican hairless breed or some kind of Chihuahua. Fond of the little thing, but aware of the laws on transporting live animals back into America, she smuggles it home. The method of doing so isn't often told.

Once home, the dog becomes ill, or attacks the other family pets, or causes structural damage to the property, or dies. Whatever happens to it, the local vet is called in. The diagnosis is always the same, "This isn't a dog! It's a Mexican sewer rat!"

A rat and a chihuahua... an easy mistake to make?

Category: Unclassifable Veracity

Explanation: This urban myth has been around for decades. It gains popularity whenever there is a social scare about immigration, with the country involved altering accordingly. It's thinly veiled xenophobia. The message being: 'Leave foreign things in their own country! They're scary!'

Snopes link: Mexican Pet. See also 'Cactus Attacked Us!', where the variation was a Mexican cactus smuggled home, which turned out to be full of tarantulas.


Interview with an Illegal Immigrant

The e-mail purports to be a transcript of an interview with an illegal Mexican immigrant, working (and joining a protect march) in Texas, USA. The discussion was between Jim Moore, from KHOU-TV, and a man identified only as Juan.

Juan appears illogical, outrageously demanding and, at times, downright stupid. He states that he crossed the Mexico-American border illegally, but has lived in Texas for six years. He paid money to a 'man in Dallas' for documentation; however, he believes that this entitles him to benefits under federal law. He is in America solely for the benefits, free health-care and education for his children. He has interpreted the Declaration of Independence, '... they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights', to mean that all aliens have rights.

Mexican and American flags

Juan is patriotic, though to Mexico, not the USA. He waves a Mexican flag and states that he is still Mexican. He then argues that Texas is Mexico, as it was stolen from them by the Americans. The interviewer tries to argue that Texas became a Republic, before its residents voted to join the United States. Juan counters that all Americans steal things, like oil and babies. He wants Texas to be returned to Mexico, but, in the meantime, Texas should become Spanish speaking.

Jim asks what would happen if he was to do the reverse - illegally pass into Mexico. Juan replies that Jim would be jailed immediately. Juan then launches into a tirade about how foreigners will get, and should get, nothing in Mexico; 'land-grabbing Gringos' should stay at home. It all ends with Juan shouting 'Viva Mexico!'

Category: False!

Explanation: KHOU-TV have confirmed that they've neither recorded nor aired such an interview. Additionally, Jim Moore didn't even work for them at the time when it was supposed to have taken place. The Snopes team looked further and found no Texan news show which did claim it. They concluded that it was meant to be anti-immigration humour.

Snopes link: Interview with an Illegal Immigrant


Urine in Corona Beer

Corona Extra, aka Corona, is one of Mexico's best-selling beers. However, the rumour is that part of the taste comes from the brewers urinating in it. In some stories, this is only purportedly in the beers destined to be exported into the USA.


Category: False!

Explanation:The story was taken seriously enough that, in 1987, some American retailers started pulling the beer from its shelves. Sales dropped significantly enough that Corona's US handlers, Barton Beers Ltd, set about trying to find the source of the rumour. They were successful. Luco & Sons, of Reno, were a major distributor of Heineken. Back then Heineken was America's favorite imported beer, with Corona nipping at its heels as a close second. A law suit was dropped only when Luco & Sons admitted publicly that they had made the story up. Corona soon regained sales and is now the number one imported beer in the States.

Unfortunately, the hoax refused to die. It's still being repeated as fact, despite thousands of dollars spent in marketing campaigns refuting the story.

Snopes link: Urine in Corona Beer


Mass Migration of Golden Cow-Nosed Stingrays

It was June when Italian tourist, Sandra Critelli, was visiting the Yucatán Peninsula. She and her partner sailed out into the Gulf of Mexico to look for whale sharks. Instead, they ended up in the midst of a sight that truly took their breath away.

Ray Migration

Thousands of golden cow-nosed stingrays were schooled together, swimming north. For miles around, they could see them near to the surface of the ocean. Ms Critelli reported, "We turned the boat towards the school, turned off the engine, and watched them move past us. There were thousands! They were swimming on the surface, and deep down, and all going in the same direction. They looked like beautiful leaves moving softly and gently by the wind."

Ray Migration

Category: True!

Explanation: Every year, the golden cow-nosed rays migrate north in their tens of thousands. They travel from Brazilian waters, though the Yucatán Straits and then find their way to Chesapeake Bay, USA.

Snopes link: Mass Transit

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