I know when to say no, it's how to say no that gives me the problem. Every expat down here has gone through the same dilemna...or will before they are done living here! It's the question of loaning money to the Mexicans.
I read somewhere that 5% of Mexicans control 95% of the money here. Although some cities, like Mexico City, Merida and larger metropolises, have a fairly well developed middle class, the majority of Mexicans still live at a poverty level that is almost incomprehensible to us. They live a hand to mouth existence with no savings put aside. They just barely make enough to feed and clothe their families, let alone have any money left over for luxuries or, shudder the thought, an emergency.
Thus it is very, very difficult for us to say no to pleas for money from friends. Over time, we have learned how to do it, but it always hurts and makes me feel like an asshole to tell people who have nothing that I will not part with my money. In the last three years, we have put close to $600 USD into the hands of Mexicans in the form of loans. But no more.
We have come up with three answers when somebody asks to borrow money:
1. If they have borrowed money in the past and not repaid it, this bank is closed until repayment is forthcoming.
2. If they want to borrow more than 150 pesos (about $15 USD), they have to provide some form of collateral that we can hold until they pay us back. A good choice is to demand their cellphone. If they won't give it up, they had no intention of ever paying you back anyway. If they have no collateral, we tell them to ask again when they have something worth the amount of money they want to borrow.
3. If it is less than $10 USD, we generally just hand it over (if the reason is good or if we even half way believe it!). We say it is a loan but we really treat it internally as a gift because we know we will never see it again. The plus side of this is that that person now belongs to Rule #1!
What got me thinking about this again is the last night, for the 8th time in three years!, the same Mexican man appeared at our door with the same sob story about his mother being a diabetic and needing emergency surgery. Could we donate? We reminded him that it was his mother's 8th surgery and we would not be contributing to it. He just looked at us blankly and walked away with his hand still stretched out. Like we would change our mind and chase after him to give him money for this bogus surgery.
Get a new story guy, or at least stop hitting on the same gringos over and over!