South of the Border
"The mariachis would serenade,And we got typhoid and dysentery."
And they would not shut up till they were paid.
We ate, we drank, and we were merry,
—Tom Lehrer, "In Old Mexico"
Ah, Mexico. Home of the bustling, ancient and modern Mexico City, the gritty and industrial Monterrey, Puebla and its multiple hundred years of Spanish colonial history, the city called Guadalajara that mixes all the previous ones and adds a technological corridor, the heavenly beaches of Cancún and Los Cabos, the magnificent mountains of central Chihuahua and Durango, the lush wilderness of Yucatán...
Wait, what? Sorry, uh, we thought Mexico was home to, you know, stuff like the Día de los Muertos, sombreros, lazy locals, burros, tequila, chupacabras, luchadores, piñatas, chili, incredibly spicy food, lots of beans, and a bunch of rundown, filthy adobe huts in the middle of the desert or desperately poor, grubby towns that American criminals will escape to.
As per this trope, the population of Mexico comprises six types of people: kidnappers, kidnappees, corrupt police, rich landowners, people without money and people who claim that the country is going down the drain, but do nothing about it. Go back a few years, and you'll also find Bandidos.
If you are a WASP (and heroes often are), don't go down alleys, you will be surrounded by big, smirking, sweaty bullies who jeer and mock in Spanish, the only intelligible word being gringo (Roger Ebert's book names these guys the Latino Laughers). You'll have to fight them.
Oh, and don't drink the water.
If you turn the clock back several centuries, expect to find jungle, terraced pyramid-temples, elaborately costumed high priests with obsidian blades who are really after your heart, and maybe some greedy conquistadores.
- El Cazador de la Bruja.
- Michiko to Hatchin mostly set in Brazil
- As part of its arc of visiting strange interpretations of foreign countries, Digimon Adventure 02 had Yamato and Ken stop by Mexico to return rogue Digimon to the Digital World. Even by the standards of this arc, the interpretation of Mexico was really, really strange - apparently there's a legally enforced curfew, and armed military personnel guard the Palenque ruins and don't have a problem with threatening to shoot Japanese teenagers for no reason at all. While people were shown living in normal apartment buildings, the sole known Chosen representative of Mexico lives in a fairly unusual and plain stone building.
- Three Amigos: The setting.
- The Spaghetti Western. Literally hundreds of examples. Most took advantage of the fact that the drier and more run-down parts of southern Spain have a passing resemblance to the drier and more run-down parts of northern Mexico and the American-Mexican border country of the late 19th century. For the Mexicans and Mexican-Americans, you cast Spaniards, and for the Anglos you cast Italians, Germans, French, and the occasional token American actor looking for film work. A very cheap way to make westerns, especially if you have the actors mumble their lines in whatever language they might know, then overdub everything in whatever languages apply to the countries where you plan to distribute the film.
- Lampshaded in A Day Without a Mexican:
Policewoman: (comments on the problems "Mexicans from Guatemala and Honduras" cause).
Reporter: Umm... Guatemalans and Hondurans are not Mexicans...
Policewoman: (shrugs) They're South of the Border. Aren't they?.
Note on screen: There are over 40 countries south of the border.
- Vera Cruz, in which the Mexicans serve the purpose of poor victims or intimidation by sheer number, the French are there to look luxurious but impractical, and the Americans save the day. The love interest was portrayed by a Spanish actress (Sarita Montiel), and Cesar Romero, the only one of the main actors with Latino ancestry, appeared as a French officer; he used to be typecast before as a Latin lover.
- Apocalypto - see it for an archtypical example of how pre-Columbian Mexico is portrayed, complete with jungle and evil high priests).
- Coupled with HEAVY doses of errors. Seriously, most of the native Mexican cultures KNEW about eclipses. In fact, most had culture that rivals European old societies. But then, along came Spain...
- From Dusk till Dawn. Aztec pyramids. On the border. Run by vampires. AWESOME! Other Robert Rodriguez Mexican-themed films (like El Mariachi, Desperado, Once Upon a Time In Mexico, Machete) go for the more traditional "crime-ridden hellhole" feel, with his trademark tongue in cheek.
- Species IV: The Awakening.
- On Arrested Development Mexico is where George Sr. went to hide while he was a fugitive. When the Mexican police arrest him for an unrelated crime, he's able to bribe the prison guards into faking his death so he can escape. This is referred to as "a loophole in the Mexican judicial system".
- As quoted above, Tom Lehrer's "In Old Mexico" manages to pack just about feature of this trope into one four-minute song.
- There's a famous American Tourist Trap along Interstate 95 called "South of the Border" (which is in fact just south of the border—between North and South Carolina) that plays all manner of Mexican stereotypes to the hilt, from the Cinco de Mayo decor to their mascot, an amiable Mexican sluggard named Pedro. It is primarily famous for its billboards. A trip from Canada to Florida by car in 1996 rendered a count of 453 of these billboards. It was also where current Chairman of the Federal Reserve System, Ben Bernanke, got one of his first jobs. Yeah, ridiculous outfits!
- Apparently "South of the Border" was used as the shipping address for the original establishment, a liquor store. It went with the theme to grow into being (arguably) the Trope Namer.
- Exception: Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter takes place in a nicely accurate rendition of the Mexico City. In fact, one of the scenes involves a shooting in Reforma Avenue, an area of Mexico City that looks kinda like a cross-breed of Manhattan and Paris's Champs-Élysées.
- Same with Advanced Warfighter 2—looks almost like Arizona, as most of the action now takes place in Juarez or desert areas.
- The MMORPG Kingdom of Loathing has an area that is actually called South of the Border. The adventures here alternately embrace and parody this stereotypical view of Mexico.
- Part of Red Dead Redemption is set in the Mexico of the Spaghetti Western and gets wrapped up in a civil war.
- Somehow justified on the fact that it only happens in USA and the Border of Mexico/USA. John never enters the real Mexico.
- Any Speedy Gonzales cartoon.
- The first episode (not counting the pilot) of The Venture Brothers.
- South Park - In an episode where Cartman forms a megachurch and moves to Mexico, and Kenny is accidentally thrown off the bus while in Mexico City. Cartman gets a call from him during mass, where he claims that "if you drink the water, you piss blood out of your ass for hours".
- Drawn Together's episode Mexican't buy my love.
- The Road to El Dorado - another pre-Columbian example. Even more noticeable, since the legendary city of El Dorado is supposed to be somewhere in the South American Amazon Basin, not in Mesoamerica.
- Wacky Races: "Baja-Ha-Ha Race"
- The Kamp Krusty episode of The Simpsons ended with Krusty taking the kids for a day of debauchery in Tijuana. The montage of still frames depicted a colonial-era walled city with an arched gate entrance and carnival-style booth entertainment. In reality, Tijuana is a modern city, traversed by a number of highways, with the strip malls and storefronts one would expect in an American business district.