Student Blogs & Vlogs | College Study Abroad Programs, IFSA-Butler

What Yucatan Has Taught Me: Relationships

  1. To value relationship, friendships and the people in your life.

One day, in my class on the Social History of Written Culture, we were talking about letters written by popular classes. The professor asked me if I had ever written a letter. I said yes. When I was a kid I wrote letters to my grandmother on my Dad’s side who lives in Indiana and to this day I still haven’t met. One of the other U.S. girls from my program also told a similar story. My professor noted that it was interesting that we only wrote to people of the older generation, since of course letter writing was more common during their time. Then my classmate presented a golden cultural teaching moment. She said how strange it was to write a letter to your abuelo/abuela, as they probably wouldn’t read it.

In Yucatan, and Mexico in general, a letter is just words on a piece of paper. What is more important is your presence in the lives of your relatives. It would be more effective to call your grandparents or to go visit them. If you just spend time writing a letter it has less cultural significance than spending time with the person to whom the letter is addressed.

The family is an important cultural unit within Mexican society. Every Sunday, there are 15 people at my host family’s house. All of the children and grandchildren, and even a niece or two will come to eat and spend time together at my host-parents house almost without fail every weekend. More so, the family is deeply intertwined in the daily lives of my host family. One of her daughter’s is a psychologist and has her office inside her parents home where she see’s patients weekly. My host mom also takes care of her grandchildren and is very involved in the lives of her children.

As the class continued, my friend from Washington, D.C., commented that letters play a role in maintaining a familial relationship since often families in the U.S. live very far away from each other. This friend also attends a university outside of the state in which her family lives.

In that moment, based on the commentary from someone who represented Mexican culture and someone who represented mainstream white culture in the U.S., I navigated my own identity and reality as a Mexican American from Texas. I realized the legacy that my mother culture had played in my life and affected the decisions I had made. I had chosen to go to The University of Texas at Austin because it was both far enough away from home (2.5 hours between Houston, my hometown, and Austin) but also close enough to come back home easily. I wanted to be close to my family and to see my niece and nephews grow up. Since I’m the first in my family to attend university, it was a big adjustment for my mom that I was moving away from the home. And to this day, I have to deal with the small pains of guilt when I don’t go back home enough to visit them – any amount of text messages and phone conversations does not fill the void of your absence at the dinner table.

-M3

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