Hola! Robin y demas amigos!
Me caes bien, me agradas, eres buena onda! eres a toda madre! (this last one its even more slang and doesnt apply to other latinamerican countries)or simply, me gusta tu forma de ser ( i like the way you are) ....Im mexican and we use these expressions.
this are several ways of letting someone you that you "like" them, but not really in a "loving" way, this means you can say this either to men or women, and it has nothing to do with having a relationship, its like saying in english..."you are cool, i dig you, or i like u, you are great! i like the way you are!", etc....
NOW about "te quiero" and "te amo"....in english speaking countries like the US, you only have "i love you" and this is a deep, heart, love feeling, something you might say to your love one, couple or even your family, but of course you wouldnt say this to a friend or a person you just met!....in spanish , at least in Mexico, we use "te quiero" and " te amo"...
The "te amo" expression , applys the same way "i love you" or at least very similar, we use this with our girlfriends (or boyfriends) and its not easy to say it, because it means you really reallly love someone!!....
Now, Te quiero (which literally means "i want you") its used to describe good feellings for a person, but not neceserally means you "love" her or him, per se!...its not as "deep" as "te amo" but it does have some feeling involded there!...so probably you wouldnt say "te quiero" to a stranger, but of course you could easily say this to a girl you are just dating or a very good friend!!!!...there is a mexican song i like a lot! and its called..."amar y querer", made famous by mexican singer José José (yeah!! double José there!)....the song bassically says that its way easier to "querer" rather than "amar" , here is the begining of the song:
Casi todos sabemos querer
pero pocos sabemos amar,
es que amar y querer no es igual,
amar es sufrir querer es gozar
Almost all of us know how to "love"
but only a few of us know how to really love
because loving and "loving" is not the same
to love is to suffer, to "love" is to enjoy!...
Well, i think you get the idea! finally , the pre-chorus says:
el querer pronto puede acabar,el amor
no conoce el final,
in other words, love is forever but "querer" can easily end!
I really liked the way you described your story and your experience in Mexico, and also you beeing married to a latino (cuban) man.
And i could say , being a 100% mexican man( living in Mexico, born and raised here), that
a lot of what you said is very very true!... but of course there is always "an exception to the rule"....my parents have been married for 25 years, they are both 100% mexican and in this case my dad doesnt have any trace of "machismo", meaning that he doesnt treat my mom in a dominant male enviromment, actually its quite the oppossite, it depends in both the education of the male and the female, in other words, if a woman allows a men to be the dominant one, he might probably be, but if the woman "draws a line" then the male with not treat her baddly,
Of course, there is a difference between being a "mexican man" and being a "macho", we do like to take care of our women and tend to be "jealous" , again , in general terms, cause there are some exceptions, and also we have this "new" thing where actually women are the dominant ones in general terms, but not to a point of "mistreating" men, just , in other words, be the house "leader" (excuse my poor english)!.
In Mexico , i have met a lot of men (including my own brothers, friends, my dad and myself) that are , what we call here "mandilones"..mandilones comes from a word in spanish "mandil" which can be translated as apron or the thing women used to wear when they are cooking, or when guys have a BBQ in the back yard and where this to protect their clothes!....anyway!!...again this "mandilones" guys (like me!) do household things, cook , take care of the kids and are happy this way!!!...meaning that we are 100% equal as women in all the aspects of life, and of course we love to take care of our girls and buy them flowers, and cook for them and give her massages and stuff like that, are what mandilones do! hahahhaah i know its funny but its true!!!...so in a few words Mexico has "machos", "mandilones" and also guys in between!!!...
About corruption, thats 100% true, and very sad! its a monster and its very hard to stop it!!....about poverty, well, i might tell you that you visited one of the poorest areas of the Mexico (southeast and south). Even if it is true, that Mexico in general is poor, that is not the rule, if you ever have a chance to visit Monterrey, Guadalajara, Mexico City, Tijuana or Culiacan, for example, you will find luxury cars, hotels, people wearing suits, big buildings, casinos, mansions, and all kind of luxury stuff, and at those same places you will also find homeless people, kids working in the streets, prostitutes and poor people!..in other words , and as we mexicans say...Mexico es un pais de contrastes...Mexico is a country with a lot of contrasts....it goes from extremely rich to extremly poor!!!...
The other thing you got right is the importance of family!!!! no ones messes with my family!!! its sacred!! hahaha....we love our aunts, uncles, couins, grandpas, brothers, etc!!!....we love eating together, and sharing our things with them, again, there are some exceptions, but in general our "familias" are very united!!!!
:D i love my country and i wish it could be a better one! what that is what we have right now and we need to work hard to get a better life, there is something you guys didnt mention a lot and thats FOOD and MUSIC!!!....its an important thing when talking about Cross cultural relationships!!....Mexicans live to eat good food, and we have plenty of it all over the country!!!! nothing better than eating "mole poblano" in Puebla, Fish tacos in Baja, "gorditas de chicharrron" in Mexico city, "Tortas ahogadas or birria " in Guadalajara, "Cabrito" in Nuevo leon, Good sea food in Sinaloa, Handmaded flour tortillas with "carne asada" in Sonora, or "tamales" in Chiapas!!!....and about music, since it varies from region to region, its hard to explain it, but we love dancing, singning and PARTY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!.... AND WE ARE LOUD! as you already said, when my family joins us to eat all together its hard to understand because everyones is talking out loud and laughing, telling jokes or singning!!!! I LOVE THAT!!!
anyway!!!!!!!!!!!!!! i will be glad to answer any questions about my country, culture and language (thats another mexican trademark : Service and helping others)
Saludos desde Tijuana Baja California México....su amigo siempre