Tag Archives: cross-cultural understanding Mexico

Cultural Shifting: Understanding the Other

I want to bring up something that is sensitive for me, and that is my observation about how our cultures are so different. We hold different views about time and urgency, I think. Los Estadounidenses are in a hurry, are business focused and want to get things done and completed quickly. We are time oriented, like plans, arrangements made in advance, everything neatly organized and packaged, have a lower tolerance for taking it easy when things get a little messy. Visitors to Oaxaca are usually coming from these faster cultures where they are used to getting information quickly and where they make a decision based on service and responsive communication (or the lack of it). I notice that we (meaning those of use from the USA) are used to doing business this way and it is an expectation. Oaxaquenos know how to take it easy. It’s not a crisis if it doesn’t get done today. “We went to a baptism.” “It was my cousin’s birthday and there was a celebration.” These are not one or two hour events. They take all day and the entire family participates, so other things get pushed aside. Imperfection and “work in progress” is a way of life. It’s the process that matters most to Mexicans — the process of relationship. It is not about completing the task in record time. Work quality and excellence are priorities and standards of workmanship among people who love their craft are comparable to any fine crafts-person around the world.

So what, you may ask, is an El (La) Estadounidense? Mexicans say they are North Americans, too, so indeed they are Americans. They are also organized as the United States of Mexico, as a republic, in our model. They feel it is a geographic and political misnomer when those of us from the USA call ourselves Americans as if we had ownership rights on the term. So, those who are politically and culturally savvy call us Los Estadounidenses — the people from the United States, inferring USA — a useful term for cross cultural understanding.

Oaxacan artists return to North Carolina.

We’re expecting Eric Chavez to return to North Carolina this spring.  He’ll be coming on March 22 with his friend, Elsa Sanchez Diaz, to participate in an art fair and exhibition at East Carolina University, in Greenville.  The University has  invited him back for a second year because of the success of his presentation last spring.  During the time they will be here, Eric and Elsa will also meet with Molly Matlock and Chris Bouton of the Chatham Arts Council to plan a fall 2008 arts in education program for the public schools, artists and weavers, and the general public, including a major exhibition and sale at the community college.  The program looks like it will include workshops for teachers, with students in elementary, middle and high school, and master classes in collaboration with local artist cooperatives.   Because Eric is a fluent English speaker, he is able to speak eloquently about his Zapotec people and culture, the influences of the Spanish conquest, the impact of tourism on the economy of Oaxaca state, and the ancient weaving and natural dyeing traditions of his village, Teotitlan del Valle. 

 These programs are wonderful cultural bridges to understanding the artistic traditions of Mexican culture and the rich history of immigrants who live and work here.  We have found that wherever we make presentations, give workshops and exhibit in the U.S., people are welcoming and interested.  Often, cross-cultural appreciation, understanding and respect is facilitated through the arts.   

 Eric is planning his exhibition and presentation schedule for fall 2008 at museums, galleries and universities in the U.S.  Often, he is sponsored by through Latino Studies programs,  university art museums, departments of global studies, education, textiles,  art and design, weavers and textile guilds, or a collaboration of these and other community groups.  If you or your organization would be interested in hosting Eric Chavez, please reply by posting your comment to the blog.