Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Visit To El Pipila Peñón de los Baños

Valentin, John, Cynthia & Prof Kulik
This past week I visited a farm cooperative on an ejido north of Los Rodriguez. Residents of this small dairy farming community want their children to stay home, not migrate to the U.S. What do the children need? Work. So, they have banded together and formed a SPR (Sociedad de Produccion Rural). They borrowed money from the revolving loan fund of a local non-profit organization, Center For Global Justice, and from the Weissman Foundation, and have built a greenhouse in which to grow organic tomatoes. With help and guidance from another agricultural cooperative, they constructed eight more greenhouses and are beginning to grow tomatoes and other crops. We toured the greenhouses to see their success and listened as they shared their hopes for the future. Then, they invited us to share comida (lunch).

Greenhouses of El Pipila Cooperative in Peñón de los Baños

Valentin, member of the cooperative

Valentin tells us about the effects of freezing temperatures on the tomato crop.

Los Jitomates

Organic tomatoes on the vine

Lupe and Luisa Invite Us For Comida

Una Comida Muy Rica

Luisa and Lupe prepared a delicious lunch, starting with rice,
tortillas, chile con huevos and nopales salad.


Lupe's daughter, Esmeralda, joins us for comida.

Chiles Rellenos

The final course of a 3-course afternoon comida --
Chiles Rellenos Poblanos --prepared by Luisa and Lupe

Monday, January 25, 2010

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Tea To Benefit Casa de los Angeles

Mexican Mask Gallery at Casa de la Cuesta, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

Yesterday afternoon I attended a tea to benefit the daycare center, Casa de los Angeles, hosted by Heidi and Bill LaVasseur at their bed & breakfast, Casa de la Cuesta. It was a wonderful opportunity to tour the extraordinary mask museum, The Other Face of Mexico, curated by owner Bill LaVasseur (see photo above).

While enjoying different varieties of tea and goodies, we were entertained by local personality, Michael Sudheer, who performed cabaret style music and classical guitarist, Bryan Townsend.
But most important, the well-attended afternoon event raised much needed funds to keep providing free daycare to over 100 children of indigent Mexican women, two nutritious meals a day for moms and siblings who are there with the children, and a variety of other support services.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Non-Profit Daycare Helps Families in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

In traditional communities, including Mexico, members of the extended family care for children while parents work. However, as poverty worsens, it is often the case that all family members must work just to meet basic survival needs. Unfortunately, sometimes the oldest child must stay home and care for younger siblings, making it impossible for her/him to attend school. All too often there is no one to care for children and they are left home alone while family members work. Without education, the next generation will stay mired in poverty.

Around ten years ago, Donna Quathamer started a free daycare center, Casa de los Angeles, to help poor families (mostly mothers) who work in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Last week I had the pleasure of meeting Donna through my friend Lee, also one of the center's board members, and I was given a tour of the center's two facilities. Casa de los Angeles currently serves 92 poor families and requires that each parent volunteer one hour for each day their children attend the program. In addition, there is a constant flow of volunteers from all over the world who spend anywhere from one week to one year working at the center. This reflects not only the dedication and hard work of everyone involved at the center, but also the inspiration of Donna Quathamer. Donna really is the epitome of transformational leadership.

According to their website:

"Casa de los Angeles is a community of caring people who gather to nurture children, serving the needs of the less fortunate, treating each person with dignity and respect as they work to make a better life for themselves and the community as a whole.

Established in the heart of San Miguel de Allende, it is a safe haven for the children of the streets and those whose mothers come from the outskirts of town to work or to sell their wares at the local mercado. Casa de los Angeles was founded on September 18, 2000. It has grown over the years to now serve more than 100 children from 83 families at two centers.

In addition to daycare, the centers provide a place for mothers to find the support and the help they need to make a good life for themselves and their children. Casa de los Angeles is able to provide medical care for the families, a food bank, summer camp, and scholarships" (Casa de los Angeles).

To learn more about the mission and vision of Casa de los Angeles, visit their website at: www.casadelosangeles.org.

Here is a short video from their website:

Friday, January 8, 2010

Mexico: Cultural Dimensions

Geert Hofstede has depicted the rankings of four cultural dimensions for Mexico in the above graph (geert-hofstede.com). Note that Mexico ranks low (21) on the dimension "individualism" (IDV), meaning that the culture is more group-oriented. As Hofstede explains,

"this is manifest in a close long-term commitment to the member 'group', be that a family, extended family, or extended relationships. Loyalty in a collectivist culture is paramount, and over-rides most other societal rules and regulations. The society fosters strong relationships where everyone takes responsibility for fellow members of their group" (geert-hofstede.com).

Mexico has the second highest ranking (69) of "masculinity" (MAS) in Latin America. This means that "the male dominates a significant portion of the society and power structure. This situation generates a female population that becomes more assertive and competitive, although not at the level of the male population"(geert-hofstede.com).

The "power distance" (PDI) ranking is quite high (81), even higher than in other Latin American countries. "This is indicative of a high level of inequality of power and wealth within the society. This condition is not necessarily subverted upon the population, but rather accepted by the culture as a whole" (geert-hofstede.com).

In general, Mexico is a risk-adverse country, as revealed in its high ranking (82) for Uncertainty Avoidance (UAI), which indicates "the society’s low level of tolerance for uncertainty. In an effort to minimize or reduce this level of uncertainty, strict rules, laws, policies, and regulations are adopted and implemented. The ultimate goal of this population is to control everything in order to eliminate or avoid the unexpected. As a result of this high Uncertainty Avoidance characteristic, the society does not readily accept change and is very risk adverse (geert-hofstede.com).

To read more about these cultural dimensions, see the previous post on Culture and Communication.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Culture & Communication

It is Week One of the winter term and my students are already selecting a country to study in-depth. Just a few selections include: Dominican Republic, Belize, Venezuela, and Jamaica. As they prepare their "virtual field study" projects, one area of research is how culture impacts communication.

One source of cross-cultural research in communication is from researcher, Geert Hofstede. Hofstede identified five (5) cultural dimensions that influence communication in different countries:

Power distance
"the extent to which the less powerful members of organizations and institutions (like the family) accept and expect that power is distributed unequally" (Geert-Hofstede.com).

"...the degree to which individuals are integrated into groups. On the individualist side we find societies in which the ties between individuals are loose: everyone is expected to look after him/herself and his/her immediate family. On the collectivist side, we find societies in which people from birth onwards are integrated into strong, cohesive in-groups, often extended families (with uncles, aunts and grandparents) which continue protecting them in exchange for unquestioning loyalty (Geert-Hofstede.com).

Masculinity/femininity "... (a) women's values differ less among societies than men's values; (b) men's values from one country to another contain a dimension from very assertive and competitive and maximally different from women's values on the one side, to modest and caring and similar to women's values on the other. The assertive pole has been called 'masculine' and the modest, caring pole 'feminine'. The women in feminine countries have the same modest, caring values as the men; in the masculine countries they are somewhat assertive and competitive, but not as much as the men, so that these countries show a gap between men's values and women's values" (Geert-Hofstede.com).

Uncertainty avoidance - "deals with a society's tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity; it ultimately refers to man's search for Truth. It indicates to what extent a culture programs its members to feel either uncomfortable or comfortable in unstructured situations" (Geert-Hofstede.com).

Long-term orientation. "
versus short-term orientation: this fifth dimension was found in a study among students in 23 countries around the world, using a questionnaire designed by Chinese scholars It can be said to deal with Virtue regardless of Truth. Values associated with Long Term Orientation are thrift and perseverance; values associated with Short Term Orientation are respect for tradition, fulfilling social obligations, and protecting one's 'face'. Both the positively and the negatively rated values of this dimension are found in the teachings of Confucius, the most influential Chinese philosopher who lived around 500 B.C.; however, the dimension also applies to countries without a Confucian heritage" (Geert-Hofstede.com).

To explore how various countries differ with respect to these dimensions, visit Hofstede's website at www.geert-hofstede.com.