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Center for International Studies
Member, Texas Tech University System The Princeton Review - 373 Best Colleges, 2011 Edition

Vista de la ciudad de Chihuahua desde el Parque El Palomar, Mexico / View of the City of Chihuahua from El Palomar Park, Mexico

Mexico

Mexican Society and Culture

Social Classes

Mexican society is an epitome of socials schisms. Wide disparities in wealth, social status, and educational levels exist across different sections of Mexican society and across the country’s many regions. After the liberalization of the economy in the 1990s have resulted in the emergence of a rising class of well-educated and affluent elite who are a direct contrast to the vast majority of the rural and urban poor many of who still reel under poverty and related socio-economic hardships. In between these two classes is the middle class whose condition have not changed much even in the cities. The worst off are the rural landless poor who live on low daily wages. They are in direct contrast to a growing breed of wealthy farmers who own most of the agricultural land and resources and therefore garner most of Mexico’s agricultural income.

Family Values

The family is at the center of the social structure. Outside of the major cosmopolitan cities, families are still generally large. The extended family is as important as the nuclear family since it provides a sense of stability. Mexicans consider it their duty and responsibility to help family members. For example, they will help find employment or finance a house or other large purchases. Most Mexican families are extremely traditional, with the father as the head, the authority figure and the decision-maker. Mothers are greatly revered, but their role may be seen as secondary to that of their husband.

Hierarchical Society

Mexican society and business are highly stratified and vertically structured. Mexicans emphasize hierarchical relationships. People respect authority and look to those above them for guidance and decision-making. Rank is important, and those above you in rank must always be treated with respect. This makes it important to know which person is in charge, and leads to an authoritarian approach to decision-making and problem-solving. Mexicans are very aware of how each individual fits into each hierarchy—be it family, friends or business. It would be disrespectful to break the chain of hierarchy

Etiquette and Customs

Meeting Etiquette

  • Give a slight bow or shake hands when introduced.
  • When greeting a Mexican women bow unless she extends her hand then shake hands.
  • Stand close together when talking.
  • Mexicans often hold a gesture (handshake or hug) longer than Americans.
  • Don’t stand with your hands on your hips or in your pockets.

Gift-Giving Etiquette

  • Flowers should always be given when visiting a Mexican home.

Dining Etiquette

  • Keep both hands above the table.
  • Don’t sit until told where to sit.
  • Don’t leave table to quickly after everyone has finished eating.
  • Drinking too much is looked down upon—especially by woman.
  • Do not arrive on time because you will be the only one that does.
  • Leave a bit of food on your plate when you are done.

Quick Facts

Climate: Varies from tropical to desert.

Population: 112,322,757 (2010 census)

Ethnic Make-up: Mestizo (American Indian-Spanish), 60 percent; American Indian or predominantly American Indian, 30 percent; white, 9 percent; other, 1 percent.

Religions: Christian (Roman Catholic, 89 percent; Protestant, 6 percent); other, 5 percent.

Government: Federal Republic

Languages: Spanish control of Mexico led to the dominance of Spanish, the official language. As many as 100 Native American languages are still spoken in Mexico, but no single alternative language prevails. About 80 percent of those Mexicans who speak an indigenous language also speak Spanish. The most important of the American Indian languages is Nahuatl. It is the primary language of more than 1 million Mexicans and is spoken by nearly one-fourth of all American Indians in the country. This is followed by Maya, used by 14 percent of American Indians, and Mixteco and Zapoteco, each spoken by about 7 percent of American Indians. No other indigenous language is spoken by more than 5 percent of Mexico’s American Indians.