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Cultural Anthropology

Oaxaca de Juarez, Mexico


Time for some good ol' travel literature. I'm not talking about what bus to take, sights to see or how much to pay. I'm talking about the good ol' fashioned cultural anthropological type, self-reflecting on what makes us peoples of the world different from each other. -sorry, interuption. I'm on Skype right now and recieved this message from a friend: "Nada es mejor o peor que otro...solo distintoss" (no one is better or worse than another...only distinct). She's right of course, but that's a cop out answer. Which distinctivenesses are better?!

WARNING: Stereotypes point out differences between the AVERAGES of groups and by no means account for the totality of any group. Varity WITHIN groups always surpasses varity BETWEEN groups. Thus, their only purpose is to pinpoint generic social differences which make for hilarious racist and sexist jokes.

One conclusion (read stereotype) I've made is that Canadians are repressed in comparison to Latinos. Yup, we're repressed. Even with the liberal Colombians and Venezuelans aside, Latin America has no problem with public displays of affection. I dunno about you folk, but I still relate to The Beatles classic "I Wanna Hold Your Hand". Yeah, a public hand hold can still make ol' Ryan self conscious. I mean, she's touching me!! But that's not even considered PDA in Latin America.

Nope, what's considered PDA here is more overt. Here you gotta be caressing your lover's cheek while tasting the salt content of their sweaty neck. ....on the train. ....at 9am. Old, young, it doesn't matter. Making out in public is the norm. In fact, the absence of affection is a cause for concern. Are you ashamed of me? Are you not attracted to me?

If you're too selfconscious in public to kiss that special lady or man or lady-man then you care too much about what other people think. The lack of PDA in Canada makes me think we're a repressed culture. Not like Japan or Korea (why do you think they have such a ....*peculiar* underground sex scene?), but repressed nevertheless. I mean, whatever happened to the sexual revolutions of the 60's?! And the other ones for that matter. I'm telling ya, the revolutions of the 60's failed on every front. We're still consumeristic, imperialistic and sexually repressed. Maybe culturally we're back in the 50's. Picture it - if you were in the 50's you wouldn't know you were repressed. You'd be all like "Hot diggity dog, we've won so many liberties and freedoms from the war. Golly jee, life is snap, crackle and poppin!"

So that's sexual repression in public. But that's not all. The other morning (note it's the morning - not the time to be crazy), I had breakfast with Carlos's family on a roof top patio at some hotel over looking Zócalo (the central historical plaza in Mexico City). There was a live band playing some music - creating that thing we like to call atmosphere. You could probably guess that this is an upper-middle class establishment, not for the poor. Nevertheless a family sitting behind us was clapping and dancing in their chairs while chowing down the dainty cuisine. A beautiful mix of two of life's greater pleasures! Anyone else take George Constanza seriously? Think about it in context. Can you picture an upper-middle class Canadian family dancing in public restaurants (without alcohol)? Let alone in the morning. See? I would call that difference repression. We're afraid to move our bodies freely. Afraid we'll disturb someone else's dinner. Afraid we'll look stupid. We will look stupid. But that's not the point! The point is feeling the music and enjoyng the moment freely. Yup, we're repressed. Not just you, but me and every other Canadian afraid to dance to the rythem. The ones who aren't we call crazy because they break those social norms that protect our obese comfort zones.

It's fitting to note here what my dad said at a conference. He was describing the differences between Canadians and Americans, which he claims can be summed up in constitutional differences. Three words can be used as principles of each document. The fur traders honour peace, order and good government, while the Yankees honour freedom, liberty and pursuit of happiness. It made me laugh.

So there we have it folks, instead of talking about stereotypes of Latin American countries I've rambled on about Canadian stereotypes. Well then, let's discuss Latin American countries. I suppose there's not much more to say other than, no one is better or worse than another. They're only distinct.

Okay okay. Peruvians, Bolivians and Mexicans are mild mannered and humble. Argentinians are proud, as they should be. Chileans speak ridiculously fast. Colombians and Venezuelans are liberally minded and live life fully. All of them know their politics.
As for the other tourists, Australians and Irish like to drink and swear and Canadian girls like them both. Israelis bargain well and are proud of it. I have an affinity for the French and a sneaking suspicion the Spanish are always holding back a rude joke. I wish they would share. There's no need to comment on the English or the Americans. And hippies are the same everywhere.

permalink written by  ryanmyers on October 22, 2009 from Oaxaca de Juarez, Mexico
from the travel blog: Ryan's First Sabbatical
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