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The less segregation, the more assimilation. It is a give and take situation.
The highest level of education a Latin American immigrant has, the more willing he/she is to assimilate. Yet, he/she gives up his cultural origins. In terms of their level of integration in the U.S., there are implications for both the Mexicans and the more assimilated Latin American groups in the U.S. While the later might enjoy greater economical benefits than Mexicans, Mexicans is the only ethnic group that has kept its cultural roots generation after generation at the expense of not enjoying such economical benefits.
While Mexicans have refused to assimilate, they have influenced the U.S. culture in every way. A couple hundred years from now, the only culture alive in the U.S. will be the Mexican (Dia de los Muertos, piñatas, mariachi, tacos, etc.). The rest will be passing technology, brands, and disposable things. Mexicans have the ability to layer several cultures without renouncing their own. I’m very proud of every single bilingual and bicultural Mexican-American in the U.S.
Here is an audio interview with Dr. Mario Martinez, a licensed clinical neuropsychologist, in which he talks about how our cultural contexts or social environments affect our cognition and health.
Dr. Martinez is a neurologist and a clinical psychologist who studies cultural anthropology. He draws his insights on health and longevity from these three fields. Like many of us from high context societies—I’ll cover this topic in a later post—Dr. Martinez acknowledges his frustration with the narrowness in the field of psychology and mind-body medicine. On his website he declares that “Academic science continues to divide mind and body, as well as ignore the influence cultural contexts have on the process of health, illness, and aging.”
According to his cross-cultural analysis in medicine, “a migraine in the U.S. is treated as a vascular problem. In England and Wales, they believe that a migraine is gastrointestinal, and in France, it is treated as being caused by the liver.” He concludes that medicine is also cultural. He explains that the attribution of certain symptoms is related to our social view of aging, which is ingrained by our context in our culture.
He proposes a radical view of medical research and pushes the boundaries. He criticizes the inadequacy of utilizing animals on which to base medical research that will be applied to human beings who are rational and who also search for meaning. He points out, “While rat research could be productive, the results must be interpreted as responses from animals that do not have the capacity to find meaning in their actions and awareness of their mortality.” And he concludes by saying, “Cultural anthropology is the missing link of psychoneuroimmunology” (a branch of medicine concerned with how emotions affect the immune system).
I find his perspective not only fascinating but ground-breaking. He highlights the fact that external factors—including social and cultural—have a greater impact on our health than genetics, a belief that has more weight in the medical field outside the U.S.
“Societies impose political correctness, while cultures infuse archetypes.”
Mario E. Martinez, Ph.D.
“While societies impose the rules that a group agrees to live by, cultures define the aesthetic, scientific, ethical, transcendental and wellness consciousness that a group assimilates as archetypes.”
By Mari D. González
In the December 2009 edition, a writer for The Economist said, “Every foreigner of inquiring mind becomes a part-time anthropologist.” That statement describes me personally and professionally.
I moved to the U.S. in the 90′s. Having completed a B.A. at eighteen, I wanted to explore the world—specifically to learn about people and their culture or their “programming” as Geert Hofstede calls it. My first job in the U.S. was bilingual health educator. At that time, my passion for learning and breaching cultural gaps was greater than my actual English-Spanish bilingual skills.
At fourteen in Mexico, I had moved from my inland hometown to the coast to study. Although it was within the same state, the cultural differences were vast. That was my first intercultural experience. In Ciudád Guzman, my new home, I was called güerita or blonde. As you can see in the picture, my hair is not blonde nor have I ever dyed it, but that was a contextual distinction in a place were most people were darker-skinned than I. Color aside, I wanted to fit in this new place and did not want to be seen as “different.” There were several instances when I would get preferential treatment, which I did not enjoy, such as people getting up from their chairs to let me sit.
I was seen as an outsider and treated like one. I had more privileges because I was perceived as belonging to a higher color-based hierarchy. That’s the type of cultural programming or enculturation that is characteristic of many societies. I found the distinct treatment fascinating, not because of the benefits I got, but because I did not believe I or anyone else deserved such treatment based on appearances. I knew it was a learned attitude that remained unquestioned, and that was my first cross-cultural analysis.
I am back to my writing on intercultural communication, a topic I love. Since my last blog post, I have completed my thesis research and earned a long-awaited Master of Arts degree in Intercultural Relations (MAIR); I am continuing to work on a paper that should be published soon; I have taken several courses in online communication and marketing and passed my written test for medical interpreting. I am happy to be able to write again.
Edited by Connie Cobb
By Mari D. GonzálezI have recently started watching Telemundo’s “Una Maid en Manhattan” soap opera during my gym visits. For all the bad rap it got by Latina activists when it first came out, its plot, content, and characters are not as bad as I expected.
First, the main character, a maid, Marisa Lujan, is not the stereotypical uneducated and unsophisticated type represented in Latin American dramas where Power Distance by social class is more important than ethnicity.
Second, the maid is not being class ethnified or classed down because of her ethnicity, that is, where a Latina must be from a lower social class than her white middle class boss. Marisa Lujan’s supervisor is a Latino, her middle class peers are Latinos, and the father of her suitor, a U.S. Senator, is also a Latino. In other words, this is a less stereotypical scenario of Latinos in the U.S. The characters are not “caged” in the historically negative label where Latinas are cast as maids or servants of whites in Hollywood movies. “Una Maid en Manhattan” characters have been freed from that category.
Third, the “Una Maid en Manhattan” cast includes Hispanic/Latino diversity, namely black, blonde, and in-between. Although I am still waiting to see a more indigenous, dark face a la Mario Lopez in male roles, Marisa Lujan doesn’t fit the typical protagonist role of Mexican and Venezuelan telenovelas whose producers tend to prefer actresses who are blonde, European-looking, and heavily made-up by el bisturi , or a surgical instrument.
Lastly, Marisa Lujan is not half-dressed as are Univision’s telenovela actresses–and even most of their newscasters. The half-dressed image is more representative of white-American network executives’ obsession with the “hot-as-a-pepper” stereotype they have formed than with real Latina women in the U.S. and abroad. In fact, in general Latin American countries have warmer weather but only a small proportion of the population live by the beach and actually dress that informally.
Edited by Connie Cobb
By Mari D. González
Personally, I love accents. They tell me that the speaker is non-native, definitely bilingual and thus, intriguing. Accents define a person socioculturally and correlate to the individual’s upbringing and ethnic, national, or group identity. Some accents are more difficult to understand, some are less melodious, and some might annoy us. Some simply take time to get used to. Yet, our evaluations are subjective and relative to our individual context or opinion.
As a medical interpreter, I am accustomed to accents others might wish to avoid. In California, there are immigrants in many different professions. From time to time, I interpret for doctors from China and India who are not understood clearly by patients with good English fluency. I have concluded that such difficulty is due to the patients’ lack of familiarity with people from China or India. Or, perhaps they are not as intrigued as I am by different accents.
Why was I prompted to write about accents? I just read a white paper on Hispanic marketing written by a South American author who speaks to the need to “diminish [one’s] accent” because “having a Spanish accent [is seen as] a minus.”
My Mexican colleagues do not discuss “accent reduction,” though they may promote better pronunciation as the way to be better understood. As a Peruvian, the white paper’s author is speaking for Peruvians and to Peruvians, not necessarily for or to other Latinos/Hispanics or for that matter to the ones who make up the majority among them, Mexicans.
According to the Pew Hispanic Center country of origin profiles (2009), Mexicans make up 65.5% of Latinos/Hispanics in the U.S. and Peruvians 1.2%. The latter are not a significant presence in any large U.S. metro area unlike Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Salvadorians, and Cubans. Thus, this isolated “accent” perspective is too limited to consider as an overall Latino/Hispanic concern.
Based on personal observations, Peruvians demonstrate a greater desire to assimilate than Mexicans. As a Mexican myself, I find offensive to even bring it up because it indicates a desire to fit in instead of integrate. Mexicans have a different perception of assimilation and actually oppose it. This opposition might be the response to the never-ending socioeconomic friction that began with the clashing of the two cultures when the U.S. – Mexican border was in dispute and, following a war, was re-defined.
The background of the current state of Latinos/Hispanics in the U.S. is the Chicano Movement, whether we agree with it or not. The Chicano Movement is a point in history that precedes where we are as a cultural group now. It marks the second developmental stage of group identity formation, which is conflict.
The first stage is identification with the dominant culture. In other words, a desire to eliminate what makes one different from members of the dominant culture or assimilation. The author is implying being at the first developmental stage of group identity formation or having a preference for an Anglo Orientation according to the research by Vasti Torres.
I suggest that the author of the white paper become familiar with the writings of historian Rodolfo Acuña and philosopher Gloria Anzaldua, researchers such as Hayes-Bautista or Amado Padilla, and the more contemporary journalist, Gregory Rodriguez—not because they relate to Peru’s history but because they relate to the history of Latinos/Hispanics in the U.S. and because such history left a huge mark in the consciousness of our predecessors moving them into the second stage of identity formation.
I’d love to see more research-based versus opinion-based information on the topic of assimilation, ethnic identity and the relevance of accents. We can certainly produce it. We need more new and fresh facts about these topics instead of recycling what goes viral online.
Edited by Connie Cobb
Since I published the article “Cross-Cultural vs. Intercultural,” it has consistently been the top post according to Ixmati Communications’ WordPress dashboard statistics. This article also prompted comments from two subject matter experts.
Leo Salazar wrote:
“Well written, Mari. One learns by writing, and the more I write the more I realize how little I know. I welcome the learning offered by experts such as yourself, who take the time and trouble to help me understand. It’s unfortunate that the particular writer on the Mashable, oops, I mean the well-respected social media blog, wasn’t open to your contribution.
You have, indeed, pointed out a very fundamental difference in terms. Most people who have a good command of the English language should understand that “inter-” and “cross-” have completely different meanings. You travel the interstate to go cross-country, but you can’t take the cross-state to go inter-country.”
Leo is the principal at Effective Intercultural Business. He specializes in learning and development in an intercultural context. He’s based in Amsterdam, Netherlands. More about Leo @srLeoSalazar
Joe Ray wrote:
“Good explanation, Mari. I have been working on presentation that includes some of these aspects and knew there were subtle yet contrasting differences in the terms.
I seem to hear the term cross-cultural thrown about more so than intercultural when navigating through the Latino market universe. However, much of my interaction is also with Native American tribes and have noticed that one term they use quite a bit is intertribal.
Your explanation was clear and very helpful. Much appreciated!”
Joe is the Creative Director at Estudio Ray, a branding agency that specializes in connecting with Latino consumers and in Hispanic marketing. He is based in Phoenix, Arizona. More about @JoeRayCr8iv
From a Hispanic Professionals LinkedIn Group Discussion
By Mari D. González
Our view of ourselves continues to change as the context changes, as we grow in market potential, in political power, and become more educated. No ethnic group named by an out-group has ever been monolithic. The grouping and the naming is usually in the context of a dominant vs. minority group in which the “namer” assumes control. I’m reading about the emergence of a new public identity of Moslems in Germany where they are seen as having a religious identity even when they no longer practice Islam.
Different historical factors influence the relationship between Americans of African vs. Anglo descent and Americans of Latino/Hispanic vs. Anglo descent. The first has been anchored in color alone (which I’m glad is changing) whereas Latinos/Hispanics come from a reverse view of color influenced by Catholic humanistic values where any amount of European blood moved them away from their indigenous or African roots and thus closer to the dominant social group.
I’d say that because I am “blanquita” or “guerita,” and enjoy the unearned privileges that unfortunately come with it, I have even more responsibility to advocate for an educated view of Latinos/Hispanics, immigrants, and any minority for that matter. By the way, “blanquita” and “guerita,” aren’t used as endearments but are common terms in families where one sibling is blonde with light eyes and the other is dark skinned such as in my own family.
I was born and raised in Mexico and moved to the U.S. I have college degrees from both countries, which has definitely shaped my views. And contrary to what the media portrays, the majority of people Latin America are not poor but working class (not much different from the U.S. now in terms of unemployment and job security). Here are Senator Chris Dodd’s words that support my view:
“… the Latin American economy, long defined as “emerging,” has finally emerged. In the five years leading up to the 2008 global financial crisis, Latin American economies experienced growth rates of 5.5 percent, while keeping inflation in single digits. And when the crisis did hit, Latin America stood strong, weathering the crisis better than any other region in the world. While income inequality remains a significant issue (as it does in the United States, I might add), 40 million Latin Americans were lifted out of poverty between 2002 and 2008.”
Below is the Hispanic Professionals LinkedIn group discussion thread that inspired me to write this post.
Member of LinknedIn’s Hispanic Professionals group: “What has happened in the US is that scholarly research and media attention has focused principally on the urban poor and then attributed what they learned about that particular world view to blacks in general.”
Mari: This is exactly what I call “Ethnifying Class,” a term I thought up based on personal experiences as I continue to move back and forth between whites and Latinos/Hispanics in different circles (social classes). I recommend that you read “The ‘Splintering’ of America’s Black Population” which talks about the now recognized socioeconomic diversity among Blacks in the U.S.
Member of LinknedIn’s Hispanic Professionals group: “This does not happen with white Americans … the attitudes and behavior of poor urban and rural whites are not attributed to whites in general.”
Mari: Because whites make up the dominant culture, they can afford to campaign for how they want us to see them. However, it must be a lot more difficult to be poor and white because poor whites are invisible in a way.
Edited by Connie Cobb