Early in the evening of July 4th, I heard the sounds of mariachi bands coming from the direction of el jardin, also known as the zocalo, or what Americans would call the town square. El jardin is one of my favorite parts of the city because it is full of life -- young and old, Mexican and Norteamericanos, children playing, vendors selling food, lovers embracing -- and on this evening, a young man was singing to the music of the mariachi band.
The social interaction in el jardin reflects what social scientists call collectivism, or the degree to which people integrate into groups. Used in this way, the term collectivism has no political meaning. Latin American cultures, including Mexico, tend to be more group-oriented with strong extended families (grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins). Some societies are more individualistic and less group-oriented with the belief that a person should only take care of himself/herself and the immediate family. The U.S. tends to have a more individualistic orientation, however with our diverse population, ethnic groups and even individuals can fall anywhere along this dimension. Students in my online course, Intercultural Communication, explore the impact of individualism/collectivism on communication, the workplace and international business. A greater understanding of cross-cultural communication can help our students become more effective leaders, managers and entrepreneurs.