Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Mexican Preppy

In most countries around the world, I have a feeling that some unique variation of the preppy lifestyle must exist. While there are certain characteristics of preppies in the United States, some general themes transcend international lines. We all know about the Sloane Rangers, but do you know about the Mexican Preppy version?

Preppies in Mexico are often referred to as fresas. Literally, this means strawberry boys or girls. To some people, the term fresa can be a positive or negative connotation, depending on your point of view, just like the word preppy. Of course, when I was in Mexico, I aspired to be a Niña Fresa, a Niña Bien, just like I embrace the preppy lifestyle in the United States. While preps in the United States have their Preppy Handbook and my new favorite from the lovely Beth Dunn, Social Climbers, fresas in Mexico have the Manual de la Gente Bien, the Handbook for Nice People. Another great book is Las Niñas Bien, the nice girls. The Manual de la Gente Bien is an interesting read because it is a somewhat satirical view of the effects of economic crisis on the preppy lifestyle. The author of these two books, Guadalupe Loaza, has her own blog, but of course, now she's an abuela bien, a nice grandmother! Some lines of the book are repeated almost exactly in one of my favorite movies, Metropolitan. The book supports what I have always believed; that class is not something you can attain, it is something that you either have or do not have. There are also songs about fresas, some good and bad, and telenovelas, soap operas, whose primary theme revolves around the preppy lifestyle.

So what does it mean to be a fresa? I’m going to make some generalizations about what I think a fresa is. There are different interpretations, of course, just as the term preppy can mean different things to different people, but in my experience, fresas have several common characteristics. Fresa boys and girls dress in neat, attractive clothes and are concerned about a good personal and social appearance. There are a handful of private schools where many fresas attend. People often identify themselves with their schools and spend most of their formative years with the same people. Lots of Mexican preps in Mexico City attend college at Ibero or Anahuac. They tend to live in a group of neighborhoods like Las Lomas or Pedregal in the southern part of Mexico City. Weekends are spent in Valle de Bravo, Cuernavaca, or other locales outside of Mexico City. Every time I read the Preppy Handbook and see the lists of neighborhoods, clothing, vacation spots, etc. . . I think about what the lists would include for the Fresa Handbook if it were ever written.

Socially, the term fresa is also used to refer to a girl who is proper. Fresa girls act appropriately and want to be respected by society, her family, and by members of the opposite sex. As someone from the United States, it was often (incorrectly) assumed that I would behave in a manner like some Cancun-bound spring breakers or a bad scene from reality TV. Most foreigners can never enter Mexican society in the way that I did. It was because of my language abilities, existing friendships with people in Mexico, and my background that this was possible. In a city of 9 million people, I was constantly amazed at how “small” Mexico City truly was. Mexican society in some cases is very small. On facebook, I generated some kind of silly friendship wheel application and it was amazing to see all of the friend connections. If I’m looking at a friend’s profile who lives in Mexico, usually we share MANY friends in common.

I hope that you have enjoyed this glimpse at yet another facet of Mexican life. Watch for the second installment of this series of Mexican preppies aka La Gente Bien where I'll discuss going out a la Fresa. (Oh, I used to have QUITE a social life!)



  1. oh how interesting and cute! i love that they're known for being nice - that's what's really important, right? p.s. the crayons are so fun - your girls are adorable!

  2. What a wonderful education you've given me this morning! I love that they're called "Strawberry People!!" Wouldn't it be wonderful if we all had a manual for being nice?!!

  3. What an interesting post. While I have not traveled everywhere, what I have found is class is class no matter what country or culture.

  4. What a great little history lesson!! I love it the "fresas" name!!

  5. Great post, Bethany! Can't wait for the next installment! :-) XOXO

  6. How fascinating! Love knowing about our counterparts in other countries. Also, I would love to be called something cute, like "strawberry"! But then, Preppy is cute too... :)

  7. That is so true. I'm from a border town in TX and that's what my group of friends and I were called. I never understood why a strawberry though. Usually it was meant to be mean not so much a compliment but we took it as one ;)



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