Over the years I have gone to visit Mexican friends and relatives in the hospital and whenever I have done so, I have always found the patient in the company of a family member.
“In Mexico, anyone who lands in the hospital will always be accompanied day and night by a relative,” I was told.
“You mean the family member sleeps in the same room? Where?”
“A better quality private hospital will have a sofa in the room for this purpose, but less fancy hospitals provide nothing and the familiar may have to sleep on the floor.”
“Does the hospital provide food for the relative?”
“No, familiares have to fend for themselves, but many hospitals have cafeterias.”
My first reaction to the hospital helper phenomenon was rather negative. This, I figured, must be an extension of the “never leave a guest alone” experience I discovered on the very first day I visited Mexico many years ago. I learned then that whenever I was in somebody’s living room – no matter the reason or for whatever duration – somebody would always be with me, doing their best to make small talk, which is not easy if neither of you speak the same language. At some point, my “chaperone” would politely get up and leave, only to be replaced instantly by another family member, and a new round of small talk would begin.
So I supposed the hospital helper must be there for similar reasons. “If I was a patient in a hospital,” I told myself, “I would want peace and quiet, not hours of small talk.”