ESL students relate some Mexican customs

Editor’s Note:  In a previous article, two male ESL students wrote about customs in their native Iraq.  In this article,  ESL students Debora Cardena and Maria Rodriguez write about customs in Mexico.  The GC Summit welcomes contributions from students.  They may be submitted via professors or directly to the Summit’s instructor at

By Debora Cardena

GROSSMONT COLLEGE — In different countries around the world, the influence of the culture affects the behavior of people, as well as the country’s economy.

Teens are considered adults at age 18 in some countries, and in other countries they are considered adults at age 21. No matter what the country is, the bridge between the dependent life and the independent life differs by culture. This affects the way of life for people, as it affects the country productivity and economy.

For example, in Mexico, children are considered adults at age eighteen, but they are still supported by their parents, and live with them for a long time. This affects their development as well the development of the country. In the United States, at age twenty one, they are considered adults, but at age eighteen they are considered capable of being independent, having their own place to live, and supporting themselves.

In Mexico it is a major cultural issue not to let your teens live an independent life at age eighteen. An important part of the culture is to keep the family together. For most Mexican people, it is normal to live with your parents whether you continue studying, or you are working, and in many cases even though you are married. It is very common that parents take care of the son or daughter, wife or husband, and the grandchildren. Next thing you know,  the family of three becomes a family of six per household.

This is unacceptable nowadays because this can adversely affect the development of the family, and the economy of the country. If the Mexican culture encouraged children to live an independent life,  it could cause a chain reaction. They would go out and look for work to support themselves. They would need to find a place to live and to do what was necessary to accomplish this. The increment of houses needed would generate more jobs for the construction field and its allied industries

To have a job we need to be competitive, and for this, we need to have a degree. Studies have shown that countries with more people with higher educational levels have a better quality of life. If Mexican society let their teens live an independent life at a young age like eighteen, that would accelerate their maturity and would allow them to have a better quality of life.

In the United States, it is very different than in Mexico. The way of thinking is different as is the culture. In The United States, considered a first-world country, a teen is capable of supporting himself and having a job at the same time that he is studying. Not only that, but before their children turn eighteen, a lot of the parents prepare their kids to live an independent life, so when the time comes, they are ready to live on their own. It is part of the American culture to think this way.

Children older than twenty one who live with their parents are not admired in the U.S. By this time, they should be finishing the degree of their choice, as well as supporting themselves and starting a productive life. This stimulates the economy of the county because instead of resulting in one house with three or four people living in it, now it is two or three houses with fewer occupants. The cultural expectation helps teens be productive, independent and mature.

In conclusion, we can see some differencess in the economy of The United States and the economy of Mexico resulting from cultural behaviors.


By Maria Rodriguez

GROSSMONT COLLEGE — In Mexico, at the time of my grandparents, forms of courtship and dating (the time before the marriage) in small towns were very different than they are now. My grandmother said that in her time, dating was not always for love. Unions were often made for convenience of the parents, to enlarge their properties  to perpetuate their last names or to become related to someone who belonged to a family of a higher social class.  Only on very rare occasion these unions were about the feelings of the boyfriend or the girlfriend.  I believe that those customs did not take into account the opinion of women, who were judged in a very strict way, but on the other hand, when the courtship went well, there were a few fun traditions, according to my point of view. One custom was “stealing women” and the other custom was to “escape” with the boyfriend.

My grandmother lived at the time of the Mexican Revolution (1910) and she mentioned that women were the subject of fights or trophies of battle. The parents hid their daughters because the soldiers were taking them. My great-grandfather hid my grandmother and her sisters in a basement to prevent them from being stolen.  After the revolution, stealing women could be with the women’s consent or not. When it happened without the consent of the woman, there was not any kind of courtship. It was enough for a man to like a woman to steal her. The parents also considered dishonoring their daughter, leaving her with only one choice, to serve and obey the man who had taken her. Stealing a woman was a power play. There was no negotiation or objection, only the resignation by the woman’s family. Another option that was a little more civilized was to leave her in a church or a respectable house of a relative and take possession of her on the wedding day.

The other custom that I have called “escaping” is different from the first one in that this is with the consent of the woman. My grandmother said that in her time, obeying our parents was a strong emotional load to bear. Women often had a big dilemma: the love of parents or her man. When a man courted a woman, there were no details that revealed the intention of the man, only gestures and meaningful encounters.  When he was accepted by the woman, he also had to be accepted by the parents. This could prove difficult.  The refusal by parents could be social or economic. Many times if the boyfriend was poor and the girlfriend’s parents disagreed, they took extreme measures such as the use of violence or confinement. As a result of these situations, the couple made the decision to escape. The parents did not leave them with another option.

Gradually, the ways of dating changed. Women started to socialize and have a little more freedom, and this really began to establish love courtship. Even so, when the boyfriend was accepted by the family, he could only visit the girlfriend once or twice a week, always with the presence of a family member.  The couple kept a prudent distance. They never held hands, hugged or kissed. If they did this, it was always in secret because people might badly judge them. The one who always ended up hurt was the woman.

The ways to meet a woman were interesting. One of them was when men and women went to the town plaza and walked around. Women walked in one direction and the men in the opposite direction, so that they could look at each other. When the men wanted to know if they were accepted by the women, they used body language or signs such as winking an eye or giving a flower and if the woman returned the winking and she accepted the flower that meant that he was right. If she already had a boyfriend, she could not walk around the plaza.

I loved to hear my grandmother talk about the customs of her time. I think that it could be exciting to escape with the boyfriend or to share a secret kiss. On the other hand, being the woman that I am, I just imagined the life of a woman at that time, no options and no freedom to decide on her future life and also without the support of her parents. I believe that they had no other option other than that of resignation and that is very sad. It must have been terrible. Anyway, that was another era, and values have changed.

Cardena and Rodriguez are students in ESL 103 and 105 respectively.

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