Mexico, November 2016
Video interviews with young people: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qLuXZ4u_cxM
My impressions of Mexicans I meet in Guaymus, San Carlos and Hermosillo in November 2016 was they’re more present emotionally than people in the US, less shut down in their interactions with strangers. For example, one of my group of three had passport problems in Hermosillo and wasn’t allowed to board the plane. We went to rent a car to the border and the supervisor, around age 30, volunteered to drive us. When we couldn’t find a rental care agency open in Nogales, Lupe volunteered to drive us to the Tucson airport where we could rent a car to drive to Phoenix for our flight home. She only asked for gas money, but of course I thanked her appropriately. With Jed translating her answers to my questions about youth issues, she said the main problem is the bad education system. Corrupt officials syphon off money to schools, teachers can buy a position and not teach, and some teachers accept bribes to change student grades, etc. I heard from many that parents who can afford it send their children to private schools, but Lupe said there’s no large scale movement for education reform other than President Enrique Pena Nieto’s move to require teachers to take competency tests. Rosa told me that the tests were so difficult and not relevant that another version will be used in January 2017. Most people I talked with judged Pena Nieto to be corrupt and tied in with the narco gangs.
Lupe said another problem is young people want to grow up too fast and lack respect for authority, unlike when she was a teen and it just took a look from a parent to correct undesirable behavior. Parents would spank if the child persisted. She blames the youth attitude problem on less cohesive families as more women work outside the home, leading to less time with grandmothers and mothers. Abraham, 26, said in our video interview that his generation is different from older ones in that they don’t want to get married and settle down in their early 20s. Unmarried, he thinks 30 is a more reasonable age after traveling and enjoying his freedom.
About gender roles, Lupe said that machismo is still prevalent, even among men her husband’s age. Her husband helps with family work but reserves some decisions for the head of the household. A US expat told me it’s common for men to have mistresses and have children with them– his finance is one of those women. Lupe said the reputation of feminists is that they are promiscuous and wear sexy clothes. However, Ana Karina, age 16, said in our video interview that she became a feminist as a young girl when her mother wouldn’t let her play with her male cousins. Her mother doesn’t want her to date boys until she’s 18, so she spends time with friends cooking and eating. She’s also an avid reader and book collector who wants to teach literature. A 14-year-old said in our interview that she would like to be a teacher of young children. When asked about differences in her generation, she repeated the global answer of their technological knowledge.
I flew out of Ataturk Airport a week before the recent bombing, after doing research for my book on global youth activism. Zakaria said that Erdogan is secular. One bit of evidence he gave was women aren’t allowed to wear headscarves in universities and public buildings. That’s no longer true, they can wear what they want. He didn’t mention Erdogan’s campaign to turn public schools into Islamic schools, which is a profound shift away from secularism. I watched CNN for hours yesterday and didn’t hear anyone mention the president’s extreme sexism. Women I talked with in Turkey are very angry that he said a woman who doesn’t give birth is half a woman, women should give birth to at least three children, women’s place is in the home because their main role is motherhood, they shouldn’t wear red lipstick, etc. His government is mainly male. Turks refer to him as the Sultan or Dictator.
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