A Thought on my Mind

Every day is getting harder and harder out here as far as work is concerned.  Deadlines run through my head as if there’s nothing else to make me worry.  But, of course, there is, so I sit worrying about other things at the same time.  This week, it’s stressed me out so much that I haven’t done very much on my actual project.  I’ve chosen to take a break and instead have done classwork instead of interviews and whatnot.  I learned a lot of interesting things about the economy of a country and how that affects development.  There are so many factors that play into successful development and they are not only economic.  But a decent economy or at least a growing one is important for the country’s success.  However, so many little things can affect the economy that it hard to get all necessary conditions to be ideal all at once so that the country develops the way it should.  Most third world countries are stuck in the position because all the necessary factors aren’t ideal at the same time.
Other times, it is the education or lack thereof that makes it hard for a country to progress.  The struggling country desires to improve and diversify their economy but lacks necessary funding to educate and teach other skills to its people, which problem could be solved by improving their economy.  It is hard to get all the conditions right at one time.
I sit here, thinking about how lucky I am to have been raised in a first world country, where things are easier than I ever realized.  I am richer than anyone in this village.  And I have more education than many of the people here will ever have.  It doesn’t mean I am any smarter than them and it certainly doesn’t mean that I’m a harder worker than they are.  The conditions set forth in my country and in my life have just been ideal.  I was born into an already developed country and that was a huge blessing.  Mexico is also a developed country, but the village I live in does not have all the amenities and luxuries I experience back home.  My biggest struggles out here are not having a toilet and shower like the ones I do in the US and also the lack of internet in this town.  The wonderful people of El Encino don’t complain about their lack in these things.  It makes me examine just what kind of person I am.  Who am I to complain about these things when I will be here for only three months?  It is really hard to know that these people haven’t had successful crops in years, to know that they have lost a lot of their livestock and that they can’t afford a lot of basic things that people in the US don’t want to live without.  They could alter their economic situation if they only had rain to plant their crops.  But they don’t control the rain.  This is something completely out of their control.  The young boys usually stop going to school after middle school so that they can go work in the fields with their dads.  Their parents can’t afford high school tuition or they can’t afford to pay for the transportation.  I can’t bring myself to encourage these boys to continue their education because I know it is out of their control.  If I were to come across someone in the US struggling with this decision, I would definitely encourage them to go on to high school.  The situation here is different.  Things are harder and tougher and can’t be solved simply with encouragement.  Some money is needed and at this point there is not enough.  For these towns to further develop, greater education is needed, but because of the lack of money, it is hard to encourage the education necessary.  It’s a vicious cycle and I see it here too.  I wish that I could just learn to accustom myself to the situation and live life, rather than looking for what could be if these people only had the resources.  Living in the villages is so different, but I want it to feel like a breath of fresh air.  Because that’s sort of what it is.  The great people of El Encino are living happily through their days despite not having internet or frequent rainfall or successful crops.  Everyone is so friendly and welcoming, so I want to welcome their way of life into my life.

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I’m in Mexico!

The days out here fly by so fast!  I cannot believe it.  Since I’m having some trouble with the IRB at the moment (things are getting sorted out; interviews starting soon) I have been spending the majority of my time hanging out with youth in my population age group (11-18 years) and watching TV shows that they have mentioned they watch.  The kids are so much fun and most have told me that they watch all types of TV shows, from cartoons, to TeenNick shows, to evening telenovelas.  It surprised me that the younger ones, who still enjoy “Spongebob Squarepants” and “El Chavo”, also watch dramas like “Por Ella Soy Eva” and “La Mujer de Judas.”  The cartoons I have watched along with them mostly show innocent humor and humorous mixups.  The telenovelas are a little different.  They display an array of more mature topics, from revenge, to lust and infidelity, to anger and deceit, but there is always that common understanding that the good will prevail and the bad will get what they deserve.  I suppose that is the way in which telenovelas try to teach morals and values through the plot, by making the good come out on top in the end, even though it may be after much suffering and drama, and by having to bad (antagonist) end up losing something, be it their lives, their money, their reputations, or their loved ones.
One thing I heard from one of the boys I was talking to in El Encino surprised me quite a bit.  I asked him if he noticed a discrepancy between his personal value system (or the one he was taught in the home) and the value system promoted by the TV he watches.  He answered yes.  Then I asked him what the discrepancy was.  He told me that TV was teaching him that manners were important and that he had to work at being better.  This shocked me because I expected him to say that TV was teaching him negative values and that morality wasn’t important.  I had never considered that TV was teaching values that the viewers would find as more positive or a good influence.  This just means that I really am going to learn a new perspective.  I don’t mind that my expectation was wrong.  This is about learning about the people and learning from them and if they have a different perspective than I do about TV, then great!  I wonder if I’ll hear the same response from other kids, or if this boy is one of the few with this opinion.  I’m excited and ready to find out.

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Countdown: 24 Days

I officially start my time in the field in twenty four days, which is extremely overwhelming.  There is so much to prepare for and then there are unexpected bumps in the road that can be discouraging, such as a mix up with faculty mentors/courses, what have you, but it’s still something very positive to look forward to.  The other day we had a class discussion about culture shock, apparently something that we all will probably experience out in the field.  I feel prepared mentally and physically for the culture because my father is from a small village in Guanajuato, so I feel like I’ve met the people, eaten their food, seen their customs, but at the same time, I know it won’t be the same.  The people I will get to know will not be family for one thing, and for another, the experience I’ve had with the culture is while I’m physically in the U.S.  This time around, I will be placed in their culture, with no U.S. cushion to soften the blow.  Because of this, I feel like I should be prepared to feel more culture shock than I want to anticipate.

I fully expect to go through a wonderful “honeymoon” phase.  I love the thought of trying new things and in the past, my motto has been “every day an adventure.”  The honeymoon phase will be a time for me to see everything in a new and exciting light, allowing me to feel like I’m on that adventure, learning so much about a new culture and people.

The next phase is the irritation/hostility phase.  This phase worries me the most because I do not want to take out my frustration on anyone else, and I definitely do not want my sudden discomfort with the culture affect the way I view my project and the population I am working with.  I love the food and the customs Mexico, having been raised with some form of them my whole life, but I do think I may have a problem adjusting to doing certain things differently than they are done in the states, especially when it comes to showers/bathroom and doing laundry.  I am hoping that I can keep an open mind throughout and that when I must deal with irritation, that I won’t take it out on those who are taking care of me and being really helpful, including my field study group.  I hope there is a way for me to exercise because that always helps me ease frustration.

Eventually, I’ll begin to gradually adjust to the culture, which is the next phase of dealing with culture shock.  It may happen so gradually that I may not even notice, but I’m hoping to reach this stage sooner rather than later.  I want to see things with a respect and understanding that is unique to my personal relationship with the culture.

The final stage of dealing with culture shock is biculturalism.  I have always felt the I have two cultures in me, the one I was raised in and the one of my parents.  After spending time in Mexico, I’m sure I might see the difference between knowing the culture and really living in it.  I hope that when I come home, I can speak better Spanish, I can understand the people better, and most importantly, I can have a knowledge of how TV media impacts the youth of the town.  I hope to get real insightful feedback.  I am really looking forward to this experience.

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Plans A-Z

Class today was be about coming up with plans B through Z, which intimidated me a bit when I found that out.  It reminds me of the saying, “better safe than sorry,” which is something to keep in mind while I’m planning the study, planning my travel arrangements, shopping for necessary materials, basically when doing anything for this trip.

When thinking about the study itself, I can’t imagine everything going exactly as I planned.  I am expecting to make changes and to have to take things as they come, rather than everything turning out so easily that I can breeze through the study.  There is just so much to a field study, like the research itself, the participants, the environment, a new culture, the group of people you traveled with.  It all is important and has to be taken into consideration.  Everything will work together to make up the “field study experience” and I can’t let one little wrong thing mess up the whole of it.

The facilitators did a good job of giving us examples of what could possibly go wrong and they gave really good advice.  Some of the things I got out of it were to:

1. Know my project and know how to explain it to other people.  If I can explain clearly and well what my project is about, then others will be more willing to help out and they will know what kind of answers I’m looking for.

2. avoid negativity.  This not only makes your experience less worthwhile, but it also affects those in your group.  It can put a damper on everyone’s experience.  If we all try to be positive, it is more likely that there will be less problems within groups.

3. have a plan in case something gets stolen.  Also, do not carry valuables that you absolutely do not want to lose with you to big places.

These are just a few of the things, but they are good things to note and good things to remember.  The field study will not always be perfect and I will not always feel excited and ready to jump out of bed to do research, but there is always something I can do to get over that “I’d rather stay in bed” feeling.  It was brought up that the following things can be done to cheer up: express gratitude to two people, serve others, and write a journal entry about something new you did that day.  Or we can make sure to plan an appointment for the following morning every day so that we have a reason and some motivation to get up.  Another thing I really like that was shared was to write down a list of everything we love about the place we are in so we can remember why we are there and why we love the experience we are having.

I am looking forward to the fun, the learning, and the challenges that I will face this summer.  It will be hard, but it will be worth it.


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The Value of a Field Study

Going into my major, Latin American Studies, I knew that I would eventually have to complete a internship or have an experience abroad that relates to my major.  To be honest, every time I felt like I should decide whether to go abroad a certain summer or not, I chose not to.  I never felt ready to go out of the country on my own, and I was scared of missing out on things here in the States.  I put it off every year and then this last December, it was time to grow up.  I new I could handle studying out of the country, but now I felt like I needed to do it, and that I was ready to.  I was ready for the experience and for learning in a new atmosphere that would give me valuable opinions and insights concerning the place and the people.

I was ready, so I spoke to one of the counselors for my major and told her I wanted to study abroad this summer.  She recommended that I apply for the field study program and I was so excited about the idea, so I went straight to the application and filled it out.  I had an idea about what a field study was, but I didn’t know everything that was put into the preparation and the prep class before the actual field study.  It is a lot of planning and reading and writing.  This definitely expands the value of such an experience.  Students going on field studies adapt themselves to be writers and observers and interviewers throughout the four months before they leave for their location, making them more efficient and focused when they get there.  I expect to experience culture shock and to be a little distracted by everything that is new around me in Guanajuato, but I know that I won’t have to worry about a lot of things, simply because the facilitators and program directors have addressed many of my concerns  in advance throughout the prep course.

Something interesting that I noticed is that the skills I am learning now, are helping me now as well.  They are not just skills that will only be used in the field, but they are skills that teach me to interact with the people around me, that teach me to be tolerant of others and to respect their opinions, and that teach me to approach experienced researchers and professors to get their advice and their consent, which I think will also help me in my future career.  Thanks to the prep class, I have become a better writer, a better researcher, and I have learned to prioritize, all skills that are showing through in my other courses.  My ideas are better formulated and I am learning to explain them to others clearly.

It amazes me how much I have already learned, and the process is only beginning.  I am hoping that this experience opens doors for me in the future and that learning about media and the youth in rural Guanajuato will add value to the experience I already have working with the media.  I want to work somewhere that involves the media, but also makes a difference.  I can find a place like that, but this experience will get my foot in the door and will show that I am serious and passionate about what I want to do.  I feel like a field study does that for all it’s students.  It adds experience to their resume and can teach skills that employers will find valuable to their needs.

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Mock IRB

For days, the upcoming mock IRB that we were to have in class was making me nervous.  I normally dread for my peers to read through my work and have the freedom to critique it.  But this mock IRB wasintended for them to critique it.  I wasn’t sure I had done enough editing to my IRB Protocol for them to understand my project and to understand my procedures.  Another thing that was making me nervous was the fact that I am studying a vulnerable population: youth.  If there was anything wrong, or that seemed unethical, I might have to start over.  Or just have a lot of editing to do, and that made me just as nervous.  What if I could not edit it to be acceptable?  This project has become so important to me and I really want the opportunity to be able to do it.

By the time I got to class, my nerves had calmed a little.  This exercise was actually really useful and I got some really great feedback and insight.  I heard my peers point out things that I completely missed and they gave me suggestions that I had not even considered.  Overall, I was told I needed to make minor adjustments and make things more clear so that everything matched up all the way through.  I shouldn’t have been nervous at all because it wasn’t a big deal and it was really useful.

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Service leads to wholeness

“Fixing and helping are draining, and over time we may bum out, but service is renewing.”

I’m going to rural Mexico this summer, and having already been there before, I can imagine what a different manner of living they are used to.  I am used to having luxuries that they can only dream of, and they are used to simplicities that I’m sure will teach me to relax a little.  The fact that they don’t have all the appliances that I have, or running water, may lead me to want to help them.  I started preparing for this experience telling myself that I was not going to Mexico to “help” these people.  To me, it did make it sound like I would be trying to fix something that was broken, and I’m sure the wonderful people of Guanajuato do not want to be treated that way.

When I thought about reciprocity a little more, I wondered how I could show these people my appreciation for everything they would be doing for me without making them feel inferior to me and without appearing condescending.  I was worried that they would see my every little act of genuine service as an effort to “help” and “improve” something that wasn’t good enough.  I am glad that this class asked us to read the article about the difference between helping and serving because I understand that it is about how you serve.  The way you look at what you are doing makes a big difference.  The people are human beings with a soul.  And one soul acting for the betterment of another soul is service.  And service benefits two parties, not just one.  I don’t want to go out there to these little villages to fix anything, but I don’t want to come back the same person.  I want those experiences of service and to gain a true care and appreciation for the wonderful people who will let me come into their homes and disrupt the daily routine just a little.  I don’t want these people to remember me as someone who didn’t care, or just not remember me at all.  And I don’t want to forget the great people I will meet either.  Service to others will be a way of keeping them in my memory.

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Telenovelas: Romanticising and Desensitizing

Yesterday I spoke with Ted Lyon, my professor for the Latin Studies Senior Seminar that I am in, and he gave me some very insightful advice for the research I am doing this summer. I am doing similar research now for that class, but instead of focusing on rural populations of Mexico, I am studying how the media affects all youth from Mexico.  When I met with him, we spoke about the telenovela and how that is what most people watch in Mexico, even the youth.  That is where they might be introduced to more adult themes, along with a distorted view of romance, and the romanticism of war, death, and fighting.  I had not really thought about focusing on the distortion of reality as my focus, but even after talking to Natalie yesterday, I am leaning toward focusing on how telenovelas affect the youth on their views about romance and relationships and whether they see life through romanticized eyes.

Dr. Lyon referred to romanticism in novelas as a “distortion of our sympathies” and the “manipulation of our emotions.”  It happens in every telenovela where one of the protagonists is involved in some kind of inappropriate behavior, but it is presented to the viewer in such a way that we are sympathetic toward their plight.  He mentioned the example of the beautiful woman in an unhappy marriage, where she is mistreated and unappreciated.  This woman meets a handsome man at work, who makes her forget her troubles and treats her like he actually loves her.  Most viewers would not condone this woman’s unfaithful behavior in real life, but this woman’s story is given to us so that we feel like we understand what she’s going through and that her actions are justified.  Our emotions have been manipulated slowly throughout the life of the telenovela so that by this time, we condone negative behavior simply because we side with the protagonist.

The youth probably find themselves empathizing with their favorite characters, and this is because that is the intention of novela makers.  They intentionally distort negative values so that we see them through a different, more accepting light.  With this distortion of values comes the distortion of the way love is.  I’m still not quite sure I, myself, understand how novelas tend to portray love.  I’m giving myself the homework assignment of watching novela episodes to see if I see a pattern.

I do remember that when I was younger, I watched Rebelde and the things they did for young, teenage, “true” love were probably not very realistic.  I remember that many of the couples denied that they had feelings for each other and had many dramatic fights in public and pretended to hate being around each other.  Turns out they were just scared of their emotions, and eventually they would finally be together but it just seemed like such a weird way to portray love.  One girl would yell at the boy she loved to leave her alone, but he, wanting her so desperately, would send her a dozen roses and teddy bears, etc.  But then she would return the sentiments and he would be telling her to leave him alone.  There were plenty of scenes of girls crying in corners.

This might have been an exaggeration because it has been so long since I watched the show, but my opinion of love during high school is not what I know it to be now.  Back then, you could hate someone, but they might be your soul mate.  Your crush may not notice you now, but they will once they see you in a beautiful dress.  The boy you like might be dating someone else, but he really probably wants to be with you.  I want to see if novelas have a strong enough impact on these youth, boys and girls, to change their perspectives on love and romance.

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A look at the themes present in media targeted at youth

This post is going to be half in English and half in Spanish and for that I apologize.  I just got done reading an article by Leticia Reina, who did research on how the media targets youth.  She argued that the influence was mostly negative and she saw a distorted display of real life on most shows made for youth viewership in Latin America.  For me, the part of the article that most caught my attention was the list she provided of themes that are prevalent in these shows.  I was able to think about my personal experience with latin telenovelas as well as with the programs I viewed on American television.  I have seen all of these themes somewhere or other and it is a shame that we are just fed over and over that this is how life should be.

Algunos mensajes y valores que se representan en los programas que se dirigen a la juventud (de acuerdo con el articulo de Reina):

.Omnipresente culto al cuerpo y a la belleza. Totalitarismo estético
. Culto a la eterna juventud
. Infantilismo en los adultos, y niños adultizados
. Mercantilización del sexo y violencia sexual
. Sexismo. Degradación y frivolidad en la imagen que presenta de la mujer
como objeto erótico-escaparate.
. Apología de la violencia como conducta plausible y efectiva. La violencia
como un hecho cotidiano.
. Trivialización de la muerte.
. Potenciación del american way of life, o estilo de vida americano.
. Consumo. Tener es poder.
. Competitividad, en todo y por todo.
. Individualismo, insolidaridad.
. Falta de compromiso y de respeto intergeneracional.
. Idealización del estatus.
. Éxito.
. Fama.
. Cultura del pelotazo o de “cómo conseguirlo todo sin esfuerzo”.
. Imitación, repetición, carencia de ideas propias, de originalidad. Pérdida de
la personalidad. Alineación, “borreguismo”.
. Supremacía y poder de la marca. Tiranía de la moda.
. El dinero como valor en sí mismo.
. El maniqueísmo bondad-maldad, en el que no caben los “grises”.
. Ridiculización del saber y la cultura, considerados como algo marginal de
“calculines” y aburridos. Desprecio al intelecto.
. Empobrecimiento del vocabulario y la expresión oral, así como de la cultura


Reina, Leticia G. “Juventud Y Medios De Comunicación. La Televisión Y Los Jóvenes: Aproximación Estructural a La Programación Y Los Mensajes.” ÁMBITOS 11.12

I’m almost embarrassed to admit this, but for the sake of this post, I will do it.  When I was younger, in high school, I joined in on the “Rebelde” hype.  (What can I say?  It was really interesting.)  If you don’t know what that is, I’ll explain.  Rebelde is a very popular telenovela targeted at youth about a bunch of rich kids living at a boarding school, going through their daily lives.  One girl is dating one of her teachers, another is rebellious because her mom is famous and doesn’t give her enough attention, while one boy seeks revenge on the man who he blames for his dad’s death, and another is struggling to live up to his dad’s expectations.  Normal kid stuff, right?  All these kids had very dramatic problems in their lives, but still manage to live a life of glamour, a life that many young viewers coveted.  Anyway, many of the themes listed were present in this novela, just this one alone.

Everyone in that show was very attractive and fit and they didn’t display an accurate body type distribution that is reality.  In their “glamorous” world, everyone was attractive according to tv standards.  There were definitely those adults who behaved so immaturely that you wonder how they forgot to grow up.  The promotion of the perceived “American way of life” was definitely present, as most of these kids had all they could ever want and more, something that isn’t very possible for many American youth, let alone for those from Mexico.  Consumerism was promoted throughout as well as competitiveness, between adults and between youth.  In her list, Reina mentions individuality/unsolidarity as a negative, which I found confusing at first, but I think she meant it in a different way.  In Rebelde, some of the youth wanted so bad to be individuals and stand out of the crowd that they did something drastic, something rebellious.  Even through the title of the show, we see that they are promoting rebelliousness. Anyway, there is so much more I could talk about as there were many more examples of these themes prevalent throughout the life of the show.  It just amazes me what youth (myself included) are willing to watch, and it amazes me even more what the media is willing to do to get an audience.


I feel like the youth would recognize the presence of these themes in the shows that they watch.  Does it make them angry?  Do they watch because it is entertaining, think that it won’t influence them because they are aware of it?  I would like to find out how the youth feel about the stereotypes and lifestyles being perpetuated in the shows that play on tv in Mexico.

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Interview Number 2

This morning, when I was interviewing a new friend Matt for the third methods practice we were assigned, I encountered a new problem I had not anticipated.  It is not a huge problem, it is definitely something that can be fixed if I put enough thought into it.  The interview started out great and I was seeing major improvement in my interviewing skills and he was comfortable and giving me a lot of useful information to work with.

In the middle of the interview he paused and brought up a thought.  What if the youth that I interview don’t give me reliable information because of the nature of the question?  He pointed out that they may not want to admit that they are influenced by the media, to whatever degree that may be.  Everyone prefers to be an individual and likes to think that they are influenced as little as possible from outside sources.  Matt agrees that influence occurs, but he suggested that I try a different approach than telling the youth straight out that I am testing how much the media influences their thoughts and goals.  They may get defensive and distort the true information.  Honestly, this makes sense to me because I like to think of myself as an individual and with unique thoughts and ideas.  It’s true that I am influenced, which is what led me to this project and made me more open about admitting it, but I can see how I could encounter that problem.

To illustrate one of his thoughts, Matt asked me a question.  He said, “If you were told you could get a free pair of shoes and you had to pick between two pairs, a generic brand or a pair of Nikes, which would you pick?  You are not told the difference, you just see the shoes and are told to pick.”  Of course I told him I would pick the Nikes.  He told me that I know the difference in quality of shoe because of the media.  The media has conditioned us to recognize one pair as better than the other.  To someone who lives somewhere where there is little media influence, where Nikes aren’t commercialized and built up, there is an equal chance that he would pick the generic brand because he has not undergone the media conditioning.

He recommended that I ask questions similar to this so that I could see how their preferences change according to the media, which I think will be useful throughout some interviews.  But I also think that it is important to get several opinions on how they feel the media has affected them.  I think a few direct questions will aid me in understanding why some people feel that media influence is negative and would rather deny that it affects them.

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