3 Very Catholic Truths Mexican Culture Teaches About Life

3 Very Catholic Truths Mexican Culture Teaches About Life June 20, 2024

The constant hum of the fan weaves with the dramatic gongs of the most recent telenovela my grandmother is watching. The carcass of a mosquito, bloated with my blood, lies over the edge of the bed. My own stomach is bloated from the remnants of my grandmother’s birthday dinner a couple hours ago. It’s a peaceful, quiet existence and I reflect on the waves of nostalgia that come every time I visit my family in Mexico. Nostalgia for the life that could have been and the different truths Mexican culture would have instilled in me.

Had I been born in Mexico…

If I had been born in Mexico, my life would have been very different. When I was younger, I thought it would be bad different. Air conditioners didn’t work super well, I’d live with my parents until I got married, would stay in town for college, I probably wouldn’t have discovered my love of birds and pursued it as a career. Through an American lens, I felt nothing but relief that I had been born in the US. But now, as an adult, I see some of the aspects I’ve missed out on.

The unity of family. The reality of always having others to lean on. Mutual support in every aspect of life. As a kid, influenced by American culture, the Mexican culture of staying close to family seemed a cursed fate. Now, I recognize it as a blessing.

Mexico culture is not all truth…

Not that life in Mexico is perfect. By living abroad, I recognize that I’ve dodged most of the family drama. There’s been no chance to build up resentment because we see each other only once a year. The black sheep of the family to me are just family. And, of course, the truth is, Mexican culture is not very introvert friendly, so I’m relieved that the large family gatherings are something I choose to come to rather than being expected to come to. It’s also true that I likely would never have discovered birds living here in Mexico. My family lives in a desert city, it’s not overrun with wildlife nor is the culture in tune with nature.

All of this to say, I don’t regret my life. And though I’ve felt pulled in two directions my whole life, largely due to my daily reality and family being based in two different countries, I’m grateful for it. Having lived in two cultures, my perspective is expanded, I have a greater openness to different and a greater ability to see the flaws in each of my two cultures. So today, from the comfort of my grandmother’s house, I want to share some of the truths that Mexican culture teaches my American self, some truths that are very in line with Christianity.

Mexican Culture Truth 1: Family is Everything

The family is the original cell of social life...The family is the community in which, from childhood, one can learn moral values, begin to honor God, and make good use of freedom. CCC 2207

Family is everything. This is one of the truths Mexican culture teaches. Growing up in the US, my goal from middle school was to move out. That’s what everyone talked about. When I graduate high school, I’m going away for college. I’m going to rent an apartment and do whatever I want. This was our collective goal. And though I knew my parents were not pushing for this, it seemed all my friends’ parents took this for granted. They joked about how relieved they’d be when there was no longer a child devouring all the food, or imagined how they’d convert the kids rooms into gyms, or warn that the kids would be charged rent as soon as they turned 18.

I have since realized that most of this is just talk. I know several friends who currently are or have lived with their parents free of charge and I have witnessed extended families who are as close as my Mexican family. And, of course, it should be noted that my Mexican paternal side has no unity whatsoever.

Still, family is built into Mexican culture in a way that it isn’t in American culture. Take as an example, last year’s Christmas dinner. My cousins with significant others hopped around town to four Christmas dinners. Two sets of grandparents per individual. That’s four sets of grandparents in one city. That’s four family branches, four families to lean on and rely on and mutually support. In one city. I can’t even imagine. And it’s all made possible by a culture that doesn’t kick children into independence at age 18.

Truth 2: Luxuries are Just Luxuries

If you want to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me (Mt 19:21).

The second truth of Mexican culture is that luxuries are secondary. An important caveat is that there are many rich people in Mexico and there are many destitute people in Mexico (the gigantic gap between the poor and wealthy is actually one of Mexico’s biggest problems). My family in Mexico is strictly middle class. No villas or private jets, but also not struggling to put food on the table. In my grandma’s house, there are three showers, but only one of them works. There’s no TV, but there are tablets and cellphones. The appliances are outdated, but most of them work.

Compared to my life in the US, there is a certain level of discomfort. Having to share one singular shower, enduring a hot house in the summer and a cold house in the winter, riding in cars that sputter their last breaths…these are things I don’t deal with in my own house. Yet, within a couple of days, I am completely adapted. I don’t miss the luxuries. I don’t need them. The fact that I–and my family who lives here year-round–don’t need the luxuries reminds me of what’s really important in life. After all, Jesus lived completely without luxury and he was the most joyful man of all.

Truth 3: The Power of the Siesta

The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath (Mk 2:27).

To end, let’s discuss the power naps. Now, I’m not going to claim that naps are a core truth of Mexican culture. However, in another life (speaking only in metaphorical terms, of course), my maternal family and I were cats, cats who sprawled out in the sun to sleep at every possible moment. In just the past few days that I’ve been visiting, I have taken at least one nap a day. Earlier in the week, flopped on my aunt’s bed with my cousin. Yesterday, sprawled on my grandmother’s bed with another cousin. It’s a tradition my mom keeps going, even in the US. At the end of the day, she and I will find our way to her bed and nap.

What has this taught me? First, with time management (and perhaps some privilege), naps can be incorporated not irresponsibly into the day. In fact, to nap is arguably more responsible. In a country where our identity is tied to our work productivity, taking a nap is a nice reminder that our bodies and souls are more important than our careers. It’s the entire reason for the Sabbath. My theology teacher in high school once asked us. Why did God rest on the seventh day? Does the all-powerful God need to rest? Of course he doesn’t. God doesn’t need to rest. It’s us humans that need to rest. And so, even if we can’t take a daily nap, at least let us honor the Sabbath.

 

These are truths my family has taught me

At the end of the day, all these lessons come down to my own personal experience. My understanding of Mexican culture is limited to my lived experience with my own family. Either way, I’m grateful for this life that has taught me the significance of family, the value of true riches, and the importance of rest. Thank you all for reading today’s post. For more, follow me on instagram @birdloversmusings and check out my personal blog birdloversmusings.com for more.

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