We are currently in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, and as lifelong learners committed to postponing dementia for a few more years, we are taking Spanish lessons at Warren Hardy’s Escuela at # 6 San Rafael. It’s a great neighborhood although we are camped about 2 miles north in the country.
Warren offered a lecture this morning describing a brief history of the United States, a similar chronology of events in Mexico and the importance of social protocols. He said that the ethnologists tell us that the top three values of the U.S. are financial opportunity, time and its control and personal freedom. In Canada the top three were peace, good government (reported debatable by one of many Canadians in attendance) and respect for all people. In Mexico the top three values are respect for the individual; trust, family and friends; and free time.
Furthermore Warren linked the founding of the U.S. as an opportunity for the puritans to work hard and that God would prosper them and the compulsions about time are evident just about everywhere.
(I wrote an earlier blog in October of 2011 entitled “It’s About Time” with a few references to our use of time). What Norteamericanos do not understand or appreciate is the significant cultural differences between the neighbors to the north of Mexico as well as the significant historical differences. Being enslaved for 300 years provides a very different perspective on one’s freedom from that of a country which has been relatively free for its entire existence, a mere 237 years. There have been people and previously a few advanced civilizations here in Mexico, for 20,000 years and that is very much part of the cultural heritage. The indigenous people of Mexico actually merged with the Spaniard conquistadores. Not so in the U.S. as our regard for the indigenous tribes of North American did not allow for nor encourage much assimilation.
What I finally understood is why I have lived in conflict with many of the core values of the United States which I struggled to define about 45 years ago. I encountered the spend-buy-waste-want-borrow paradigm which was diametrically opposed to my own personal values of save-use-keep-have-give. It is not that I am opposed to spending or investing but bottom line profits in terms of money have not been one of my life’s motivations. And I came to the realization years ago that time was a construct, an invention for our convenience. When Warren said that Mexicans would rather have free time with their friends than use that time to work for money, the light bulb burned brightly. Yes, I said, that’s it! Eso es! That could even be a play on S.O.S. but it’s not. It’s part of the way of life here and it is truly refreshing and just one of many reasons we are enjoying being here and realizing that we are guests in this wonderful country of gracious, generous, polite and friendly people. We have much more to learn.
The Mexican people love to hang out; they are very proud of of their race as a nation (La Raza); they are among the hardest workers of any industrialized nation and their economy is on the rise globally. And unless they become too much like the U.S. they may be able to retain their core values without compromising respect, family, friends and free time. What a great model that would be. In fact, we could also take some values lessons from our neighbors to the north, where peace is a top value. There is much more to learn, linguistically, culturally, historically – perhaps in reverse order as the history defines the culture, language comes along with both and there you have it. Becoming multi-cultural in our global village today is an essential piece of learning, growing and evolving, as human beings, as people who care about and for one another. Thanks, Warren for finally explaining why!