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A story about the Wixárika People, one of the last living Pre-Hispanic cultures in Latin America, and their struggle to preserve Wirikuta, their most sacred territory and the land where the peyote grows, the traditional medicine that keeps alive the knowledge of this iconic people of Mexico.
Una historia acerca del Pueblo Wixárika, una de las últimas culturas prehispánicas vivas en Latinoamérica, y su lucha ante el gobierno mexicano y corporaciones transnacionales mineras para preservar Wirikuta, su territorio más sagrado y la tierra donde crece el peyote, la medicina ancestral que mantiene vivo el conocimiento de este pueblo emblemático de México.
Available at/Disponible en: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/huicholesfilm
By Mari D. González
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.
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. González
I 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
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
By Mari D. González
Searching for blog articles on intercultural online communication, I found one on a well- respected social media blog. To my disappointment, not only did the author use “cross-cultural” to mean “intercultural” but she also argued that most people, even academics, use the terms “interchangeably”; when I tried to clarify the differences in the comments section, she responded that I didn’t need to bother explaining. This is what I wrote:
“’CROSS-CULTURAL’ means a comparison and contrast between two cultural groups. For example, my cross-cultural study of Brazilians and Mexicans when they celebrate a birthday shows that Mexicans love to focus on cooking and sharing of the food, while Brazilians love the dancing –even grandmas are dancing the samba. ‘Intercultural’ refers to what happens when people from these two groups come together. As a Mexican, I may complain that there’s not enough food, but I love the dancing and join the group. Thus, INTERCULTURAL is what happens when the two (or more) culturally-different groups come together, interact and communicate. Both terms describe important aspects of the study.”
As an interculturalist, I also found it troubling to read the author’s definition of “culture” as “layers of identity–not as groups of people.” My instructor and intercultural communication pioneer, Milton J. Bennett (1992) defines culture as “learned and shared values, beliefs, and behavior of a group of interacting people”; this is the definition I use in offline and online communication contexts.
Myron W. and Koester (1993) define intercultural communication in their book Intercultural Competence: Interpersonal Communication Across Cultures as “a symbolic, interpretative, transactional, contextual process,” which implies the engagement of culturally-different people. On the other hand, they define cross-cultural communication as “the study of a particular idea or concept within many cultures…in order to compare one culture to another…. Whereas intercultural communication involves interactions among people from different cultures, cross-cultural communication involves a comparison of interactions among people from the same culture to those from another culture.”
In the graduate program in Intercultural Relations, from day one we learn the definitions of intercultural vs. cross-cultural in the context of communication across cultures. Because social media has become “the” online platform for collaboration, learning, and exchange of knowledge, the blog author needs to learn both the correct definitions of the terms and the principles of the new media. Trying to oblige one’s ideas through new media is a thing of the past so, as a colleague of mine put it, “she is a traditionalist.”
Edited by Connie Cobb