Mexico Taught Me This...

The Central Highlands of Mexico are some of my favorite places to be on Earth (I haven't been to all the places on Earth, but I'm pretty sure it would still be on the top).

The combinations of weathered raw materials, handcrafted everything, and bold colors and textures still inspire many of my designs. Stories are everywhere. In fact, one of them is story I tell as a pivotal moment in my early twenty-something life that rocked what I new to be true about achievement, community, and self-sufficiency.

Oh! And happy Cinco de Mayo!

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I spent a quarter of my last year in college in Cuernavaca to assist our architecture department in building a kitchen for an elementary school in an ‘underprivileged’ community outside of town. As we worked with and spent time in the homes of this community, it became obvious that this town was rich in ways that were unfamiliar to me.

My American upbringing and education seemed to be one giant helping of the following message repeated over and over in different ways:

  • You are here to express yourself as a unique individual.

  • You are special and above average.

  • You can be anything you want.

  • You can and should achieve as much success as possible.

In this community, we are irritated with stagnant growth, frustrated that we are not receiving the support or resources we need due to our circumstances, or the government. Frustrated that we are not recognized for our obvious above average-ness. This community can be lonely and endlessly interested in what happens next. We are obsessed with our wins and others failures.

Contrast this with what I perceive as the Mexican message to their kids:

  • You are an important and useful member of this community.

  • You are, and always will be a loved and involved member of this family.

  • You can and should learn lots of varied things that will bring you joy, and support your family and community.

In this community, the people make and do the things that their community needs. If there’s a gap, they fill it.  For the most part, they don’t rely on anyone outside of their own community. This community is vibrant, connected, and really, really happy because their measure of success can be achieved now and for the rest of their lives.

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One message prizes individuality, connects happiness with future success, and assumes that if you haven’t achieved what you want, you are not doing it right. The other message prizes connections and supports the idea that things are great now, if things get bad, we can figure it out together, and please pass the mole.

So, every Mexican celebration, I give thanks to one of the happiest, supportive, and inventive communities I know. Whenever I get frantic in pursuit of a dream, I am reminded that things are pretty great now. Ultimately, there is no need to push. There are people to be loved, and connections to be made and cherished, for a life of daily success. This week, success included lunch on my sister’s patio with some old and bold table decor.

Have you had mind altering experience with a different culture? Share it in the comments! And be sure to join OUR community by signing up in the side bar.