As anyone from Mexico knows, la familia is one of the most important aspects of life. It is a fact that family comes first and that traditions are passed down from generation to generation. As an immigrant living in the United States, it is almost horrible to see the difference in family values from those to which one is accustomed at home in Mexico. Here I share a comparison of family values in Mexico and those observed here in the United States.
Respeto is not something that is required in Mexico; it is something that is expected. Children respect their elders because that is how they are supposed to be. If someone older than you walks into the room, you’d better get up and offer them your seat. If your neighbor asks you for help, it will not be because you will get something, but because it is the right thing to do. Things are done as second nature rather than obligation or fear. While there are areas where this is changing, they are few and far between.
In direct contrast, here in the United States, the value of respect appears to be out of date. While you can still find areas that follow what they call old-school values here, they are becoming more and more rare. Here in the United States, respect is a virtue that is demanded and often issued out of fear of the repercussions of not showing it. However, this is also a waning practice. Many, including children, do not respect their elders or the needs of those around them. It has become common to look away when a neighbor needs it. The values here become very selfish and move away from the respect of the old days.
Families in Mexico are very close. While family members may lead their own lives, they share triumphs and sorrows together. Familias in Mexico often live together until each child marries and in many cases even after marriage. If the children move, it is often close to their parents. If family members move to other areas, they try to connect or stay in touch as often as possible. Many of the small pueblos are made up of families that are spread throughout the town. While the larger cities are a bit different, the family connection is still evident in most places.
In the United States, however, family closeness has a different meaning. As families gather for vacations or birthdays, many families also begin to skip these events. The importance of earning money and improving one’s life has been given importance. So much so that the family is often left behind in the fight for success. This is not to say that family is not important to Americans, only that the relationship between family members is very different here than in Mexico.
LATE IN LIFE
In Mexico, as parents or family members age, it is typical for a child or other family member to stay close and help care for their viejitos. While they can maintain their independence for a long time, family members often stop by to see and talk for a time. Siblings sit outside reminiscing about old times, grandchildren come over to spend a few hours with their older abuelos, and their sons and daughters cook and clean for their parents.
Here in the United States, there are many who verify an aging family member. However, all too often, this visit is to a retirement home. As family members reach certain ages, children or siblings begin to search for the most comfortable retirement home to live in. While these houses are often charming, they provide the elderly with a place where they can live and receive the medical care they need. It is not the same as being part of the family or living in your own home and having personal space. This is not to say that Americans love their family members less, just that the practices observed seem quite strange to immigrants.
While each culture has its own family values, the norms for one country seem quite strange to those of another. In this way, the family values of people in the United States are in stark contrast to what we are used to being from Mexico. Here in the United States, they call all these changes progress. Me, in the hope that as immigrants living in this country, we can uphold our family values and keep them alive on a daily basis here in the United States.