Thinking about India and Mexico

So obviously, I haven’t posted much lately. One day maybe I’ll be a professional blogger who posts every day, but it doesn’t look like that day will be getting here any time this summer. Between traveling back to the U.S. from India, spending two more weeks visiting in Colorado and Texas, driving a few thousand more miles, and then hitting the ground running here in Mexico in preparation for the arrival of summer interns, blogging time has been scarce! I do want to continue blogging as much as possible, in order to help people plug in better with what is going on with Global Frontier Missions, as well as to allow us all (me the post author and you the comment authors) to share with one another what God is teaching us.

I had a couple more posts I had wanted to get up about the India trip, so let me do that. Waiting so long to finish talking about the trip may not meet blogging best practices, but hey, who ever said I’d meet all of those, right?

I mentioned in an early post during the India trip that I was surprised at how similar India and Mexico are. I want to share a bit about the similarities I saw, as well as some differences. Here goes:

Ways India and Mexico are similar

  1. Religiously, I found the dominant beliefs of Hinduism to be very similar to the dominant beliefs of southern Mexico, believe it or not. The belief system of the majority of Hindus has an animistic flavor to it. People honor (though they don’t necessarily obey) all sorts of different gods in order to invoke the gods’ favor and avoid their wrath. Southern Mexico is very similar in the way that people depend on the Catholic saints and virgins, while not necessarily sensing a strong need to obey God. As we walked into shops and rode in taxis in India and saw all the altars to the gods and images of them hung everywhere, it was uncanny how similar it was to Mexico, where people have altars to and images of the saints. The Hindu temples with their various idols felt, in many respects, similar to the Catholic cathedrals of southern Mexico.
  2. India and Mexico are both what we call hot climate cultures. People in hot climate cultures value relationships over tasks and often do not stick to a rigid schedule. Other similarities between the two cultures (in contrast to North America) are the greater respect given to elders and those in positions of leadership, the greater sense of community and lesser individualism, and the indirect and non-confrontational manner of communication.
  3. Both Mexicans and Indians are very hospitable. When staying in the home of an Indian family, we cheerfully pleased our hosts by digging into the continued servings of food offered at each meal.
  4. In India, as in Mexico, I was often stopped on the streets by friendly strangers who speak some English and wanted to know about me and talk about the United States.
  5. Many Indians migrate to North America to find work, as do many Mexicans. It was quite common to talk to people in India who had family members who were living or had lived in the U.S. or Canada.
  6. A staple food in India is chapati, which is a round flatbread usually made of wheat. That, combined with frequent servings of rice and beans felt a lot like reaching for a tortilla and digging into a meal in Mexico.
  7. Indians look like Mexicans! We saw a number of people in India who could have been right off the streets of our Mexican town or who even had a striking resemblance to particular friends of ours in Mexico.

Ways India and Mexico are different

  1. Despite the presence of hundreds of distinct ethnic groups in Mexico, Mexico’s culture is still much more homogenous than India’s. India is extremely fragmented with thousands of languages, numerous castes, several major cultures/religious systems (Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism, Jainism, Buddhism, Christianity), etc. All these mean that India is divided into literally thousands of different groups of people who are willing to have only limited interaction with one another.
  2. Some of the outward cultural norms of India were quite different. For example, in Mexico we greet everyone, usually with a handshake. In India, strangers don’t greet one another, and even men and women who know each other will rarely shake hands.
  3. The strong sense of honor and shame in India, and what it means to preserve an individual’s/family’s/village’s honor is something I have not really seen in Mexico or elsewhere in North America. I might have shared this already, I can’t remember, but I read a story in the newspaper in India where a young woman who was raped begged the court to make the man who violated her marry her, in order to restore her honor.
  4. Though I would say that Mexicans have greater respect for family than, say, North Americans, I felt like Indians honor and care for family members and family structures far more than the people of Mexico do.