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Defining Relationships in Mexican Culture

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Defining Relationships in Mexican Culture

This paper will define certain relationships in Mexican culture, taken from a popular belief's perspective. The topics covered will be family, community, religion, and the word Chingar.

Some background facts about Mexico: The place of advanced Amerindian civilizations, Mexico came under Spanish rule for three centuries before achieving independence early in the 19th century. A devaluation of the peso in late 1994 threw Mexico into economic turmoil, triggering the worst recession in over half a century. The nation continues to make an impressive recovery. Ongoing economic and social concerns include low real wages, underemployment for a large segment of the population, inequitable income distribution, and few advancement opportunities for the largely Amerindian population in the hurting southern states. Elections held in July 2000 marked the first time since the 1910 Mexican Revolution that the opposition defeated the party in government, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). Vicente FOX of the National Action Party (PAN) was sworn on 1 December, 2000 as the first chief executive elected in free and fair elections. (

Mexican culture is known for the unified nature of the family. In Cisnero's book, Caramelo we see that nothing is more important than the family, "Always remember," Inocencio tells his daughter, "...the family comes first--la familia." (Cisneros, 2002) Children regularly live with their parents until they marry, even if they remain single until their thirties or later. It is also quite common for family units to remain connected, often with grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, and children all living in the same area or even in the same house. Of course that is not the case all the time, especially when families have to migrate. Loyalty within the family is absolute - brothers will fight for the honor of their sisters. A lot of times the children or the father of the family have to leave in search of a job. In the story we read in class, The Gift, Jeronimo left to go to Cuernavaca to work there but we see that he returns home, to his parents. Kids show a lot of respect for the parents and it is common for the parents to grow old and die at their children's house. In The Gift we see how Jeronimo shows a lot of respect for both of his parents first of all for bringing the gift to his dad and secondly when on page 197, we read that he kisses both of his parents hands. The roles of the parents in Mexican culture are generally well-defined, with the father acting as the family's ruler and the mother as the family's heart, " he's been up before the rooster earning his living to pay for the food in her belly and the roof over her head..." (Cisneros, 1992).

Machismo is quite common in Mexican families. In the book The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros, there is the chapter, Beautiful and Cruel, which depicts a character's personal quite war against machismo. This chapter marks the beginning of Esperanza's, a character in the book, "own quiet war" against machismo. She will not discipline herself nor wait for a husband, and this rebellion is reflected when she is leaving the table- dish and chair untouched- like a man. Esperanza's mission to create her own identity is manifested by her decision to not "lay (her) neck on the threshold waiting for the ball and chain." ( Cisneros, 1984) Also in the chapter, What Sally said, Sally makes excuses for her father, such as "he never hits me hard" or lies and says she fell. "Because I'm a daughter," as opposed to a trustworthy son, Sally returns to her "Daddy" when he comes begging for forgiveness. The horror a neglected woman must repeatedly face is affectively emphasized through simile: "he hit her with his hands just like a dog, she said, like if I was an animal." ( Cisneros, 1984) Irony reveals the bad situation Sally is in: "he just forgot he was her father between the buckle and the belt." (Cisneros, 1984) These are examples of machismo were violence is involved but like in the chapter, Beautiful and Cruel, machismo can be associated with certain behavior men are expected to have, like getting up from the table without picking up their plate or pushing in their chair. Another example of machismo is certain descriptions of men, like "This man who farts and belches and snores as well as laughs and kisses and holds her. Somehow this husband whose whiskers she finds each morning in the sink, whose shoes she must air each evening in the porch, this husband who cuts his fingernails in public, laughs loudly, curses like a man, and demands each course of dinner be served on a separate plate like his mother's, as soon as he gets home, on time or late, who doesn't care at all for music or telenovelas or romance or roses.... this man, this father, this rival, this keeper, this master, this husband till kingdom come." ( Cisneros, 1992)

Some have called adultery a social norm for men, and abuse, both physical and emotional, is not uncommon. Wives are generally expected to endure this treatment from their husband, in the chapter Eyes of Zapata we read "They say you have three women in Jojutla, all under one roof. And that your women treat each other with a most extraordinary harmony... These stupid country girls, how can they resist you?... But you are as well my husband." ( Cisneros, 1992) Of course norms change moving from the pueblos to the cities or as advancement takes place. A mother is often exclusively responsible for maintaining the household and caring for the children, who as a result often adore her, while fearing their authoritarian father. In the past few decades, these stereotypes have begun to break down somewhat. As influences from the United States continue to shape Mexican culture, machismo is slowly becoming more recognized and avoided, especially in the northern part of the country, where the American influence is more pronounced. In southern and more rural communities, however, these basic behaviors continue to exist.

Unlike the United States where a decline in the sense of community is clearly present, one nation that still values "community" in its cities and towns, its plazas and schools, and its work organizations is Mexico. In Mexican culture the expectation of working and socializing together is a key component of society, and has a basis in the strong ties formed within the family, " In the town where she grew up, there isn't very much to do except accompany the aunts and godmothers to the house of one or other to play cards. Or walk to the cinema to see this week's film again... Or to the center



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