Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Cultural Studies 101

Today is the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I'm not going to go into all the history of why the Lady of Guadalupe is so important in Mexico because you can read a well-written account of it here. But I will tell you that since last night San Miguel has been honoring her. This altar is on the street behind us. They build it every year and have fireworks, music, food and recite the rosary. During the day on December twelfth, there are several major processions that either come into town to the San Antonio church or go through town to the Guadalupe church and then out on the highway to the orphanage. Many businesses are closed and the children don't go to school. All during the night there were church bells and fireworks from one area or another.

Besides being a religious symbol, the Virgin of Guadalupe is a cultural symbol of significant importance to Mexican national identity. Both Hidalgo and Zapata waged war underneath Guadalupan flags. You see her image everywhere....on plaques, on T-shirts, on tattooed bodies, on jackets with sequins, on dishes, on.....most anything that can contain an image. Many families have framed pictures of her image in their houses and today they brought the image to church to be blessed.

I really don't know how you can possibly choose to live in Mexico and not know anything about the Virgin of Guadalupe. But you know what happened today? I found out that this is possible. The Yahoo email group that many people who live here subscribed to had some people who were asking about and complaining about the noise.....the bell ringing and the fireworks during the night. They wanted to know, "Was this a holiday? Why did the Mexicans have to ring bells and shoot off fireworks and disturb their sleep?" How can anyone who chooses to live in another country be so culturally unaware? So ignorant of the history of that country? I'm embarrassed for them. I think they need to go to Mexican Cultural Studies 101 before they are allowed to renew their visas or FM3.

12 comments:

Brenda said...

You just said what I have been thinking for the last week. I met some people last week, who had absolutely no clue about it also. They were joking that a certain place had set up an area perhaps for children to have their pictures taken at. They were also making fun of it as it wasn't "professionally done", this place has a very low budget and had done what they could afford. Their comments were so culturally insensitive that I just wanted to bang their heads into a wall. Made me angry that they would make fun of something when they didn't have a clue about what was going on.
Sometimes being a member of the human race is very frustrating and embarassing.

Cynthia said...

Mexican people believe in miracles.

Too many Americans do not.

It's just one more thing I love about being in San Miguel.

Billie said...

Cynthia and Brenda, I still just don't understand why some people come to live in Mexico when they have no knowledge about or love of Mexico. Sometimes I'm forced to admit that there are people who come here to live so they can have "servants." One of the charms for me is this whole different sets of beliefs about many things and some of them are tied to the prehispanic culture. When Cortez came, his men were amazed at the level of the civilization they found....cities, vast markets....

Brenda, I love the parades, the altars, the costumes all loving made by hand by the family. Such creativity and such an expression of religion and patriotism. So much art surrounds me everytime I step out the door. I'm sorry for the people who can not see it and appreciate it. But I do wish they would stop bitching about the things they have chosen not to understand.

Nancy said...

There are ignorant people everywhere, unfortunately. People who live in their own little bubble, and who don't even have the good sense to know when they should keep their mouths shut.

Being themselves is their punishment, I guess!

The Yahoo group here in Maz is somewhat the same...dumb comments and dumber answers...people flamed often so that it is unpleasant to read. The good thing is that I know the people I want to stay away from!

I wonder if they should do a cultural test before they issue or renew an FM3???

Brenda said...

Billie, I too love the costumes, altars, parades, etc. that we see here. I am always reading trying to learn more about our adopted country. There is so much to learn about this country and its wonderful customs and traditions that no matter how much I read and learn I still feel very ignorant. The people I mentioned live in the tourist town close to us and in my opinion just do not care to learn and are not interested. They are just here for the winter for the weather, the low cost of living, the availability of cheap labor, etc.. They are not interested in learning about the country that they are in, they are still in the "we are superior" mode. They have no idea of what they are missing and don't seem to care. They do not even attempt to understand or assimilate. I do my best to stay away from them most of the time as I cannot stand their attitudes. If I live here until the day I die I think I will still feel that I know next to nothing about this country as their history is so diverse; but at least (in my mind) I am trying to learn. I love the richness and diversity of this country and will continue trying to learn more, ignoring the ignorant people around me.

1st Mate said...

San Carlos, where I live, is a waystation--the gringos come and go, seldom delving into what culture has been preserved here. I'm not sure what they're looking for. To be warmer, live cheaper, enjoy endless beach time, drink lots of cerveza and tequila, get a tan? If they can do all that while feeling safe (i.e. in gated communities for instance) they've found paradise. And they've missed so much! When I talk about traditions I've discovered, often the response is something like "How quaint..." So I'm not sorry to see them go.

Billie said...

1st mate, I hear ya. I'm not sorry to see them go either.

mcm said...

Let me say in advance, this comment isn't meant to be contrarion -- just to add a different point of view.

It doesn't seem like a crime to come to live in Mexico and not know about the Virgen of Guadalupe, and its religious and cultural significance.

But sure, after you've lived here, say a year (or perhaps even a few weeks!), yes, it's odd not to be aware of what it's about.

It's ok to be "ignorant" about something that is foreign to you -- I think that MOST people who come to Mexico (or at least to Yucatan, where I live) come -- at least in part -- to LEARN about a different culture, not because they already know all about it. I guess I could also add that, even having lived for a number of years in Mexico, I would not say that I know everything about celebrations for the Virgen of Guadalupe.

Of course that doesn't excuse rudeness or snide remarks, or complaints voiced without finding out a bit more of "what all the noise is about".

Billie said...

mcm, I understand what you are saying and I guess we will all be learning more about Mexico as long as we live here. I just hope that some of these people who complain about the noise of the celebrations will stop complaining and start learning.

Babs said...

Thanks Billie for saying what I've been fuming about.....I didn't come here to live in the USA, I came here to live in a totally different culture........and I LOVE it! I think I'm going to have to stop reading the Civil list!

wayne said...

Billie, you hit the nail on the head with this one. I would be afraid to take a Culture 101 test though. Even after living here more than 4 years. This island is so small that we hardly ever have a big fiesta about anything and the budget only allows for fireworks on Independence Day and New Year's Eve. And culture in Cancun? Forget it. Sometimes I wish I lived where these events took place so I could learn more and be more of an "active" watcher. Oh well, there is always the beach.

Billie said...

I'm not sure I would do so well either, Wayne. Tonight from the terrace, we just watched cohetes and a castillo that were in front of the San Juan de Dios Mercado. We are going to have to try to find out what they were celebrating.