I wish I could talk in length about the things you really want to know like all the specifics about Mexico and its history but I don’t know much about it yet and I’m learning about it right alongside you.
However, I do know the culture. I know it because it hasn’t changed much in hundreds maybe thousands of years. I know that when someone gets sick everyone shows up in the hospital to see them. I’ve talked to nurses that say to me, “I’ve seen parents on their deathbed whose kids just call to check up on them but Mexicans, boy, ya’ll show up even if it’s your 10th cousin on your mother’s side – twice removed!” Ok, ok, I made that last part up but I was there to see my mother’s cousin whom I consider my primo.
This simple act demonstrates the close nit Mexican community. The strongest bonds are of course family; parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, second cousins etc… other bonds are neighbors, then people who live in the same community.
I believe it’s because in the past people who lived in Mexico had to take care of each other to survive. The government surely didn’t help, bandits abounded in many areas and goodwill was currency that could be traded in whenever you needed a hand.
For example, if you had 5 kids, you would help the farmer who owned oxen. You’d help him plant his crop because when you were finished he’d let you borrow his oxen to plant your own parcel.
If you happened to make great tortillas because of an abundant corn crop then you’d share them with the cattle rich neighbor hoping that when they killed a cow they would share their meat.
Or let’s say you wanted to throw your daughter a Quineañera but couldn’t afford it, then you’d get padrinos. Padrinos are basically sponsors and yes they are most always family. They sponsor the fiesta by either donating the food, dress, decorations or money. People do it because they know that when their daughter turns fifteen everyone will be more willing to help them as well. It’s like a barter/goodwill/karma way of life.
Now let’s clarify, from what I see it only existed in some of Mexico.
My wife, for the life of her, cannot comprehend why I call my second and third cousins — primos. I mean she doesn’t even talk to her primos hermanos(1st cousins). But what she really doesn’t get is how a family would have a Quinceañera and ask for money. In her opinion, if you don’t have the money then don’t have the party – period.
Maybe it’s because she’s from southern Guanajuato and I’m from northern Zacatecas. I don’t know?
What I do know is that what started as a survival mechanism is now so engrained in the Mexican culture, it’s come to define much of this generation.
And don’t even get me started on the phrase somos de la casa(we’re from the same house) because then you’re probably my cousin. Thanks for reading this primo or prima!
FYI: My daughter is 9 years old and I may or may not be contacting some of ya’ll in 6 years. 🙂