March 7, 2011
I’ve seen a lot of bizarre things in my travels. ‘Toro Piscine‘ in France comes to mind. A host of unmentionables in Southeast Asia. ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ style rituals at a Spanish monastery sponsored by a government in exile. Buzkashi (polo with a dead animal).
This past Friday I found myself stumbling upon Mexican Carnaval celebrations. I don’t exactly have my finger on the pulse of the Latin America Catholic holiday schedule, so it was an unexpected twist to my weekend.
Now, Mexican Carnaval isn’t as crazy or Bacchic as the Brazilian version that I’ve seen where they have condoms as mascots to remind the all the Brasilieiro to be safe, but it was definitely a bit strange and left me scratching my head.
If you’ve never seen a Carnaval celebration in Latin America, they’re typically dominated by a procession of elaborate floats. Think Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade but with booze and scantily clad women.
In the Mexican version, just about everything is sponsored by the national beer companies like Corona and Sol… so most of the floats are decorated with enormous mock beer bottles, thong-clad dancing girls, and booming Reggaeton beats.
Many floats are trailed by children, usually in very skimpy costumes dancing provocatively to the music. And then there were the ‘booze bus’ floats with hard partying teenagers on public display.
Not exactly what most people would consider an appropriate ‘family event’, yet locals from Merida lined the street for hours… and hours… in advance of the main parade.
Everyone was there with their children, screaming their heads off in voracious approval as gyrating 12-year olds and go-go dancers flanked by giant beer bottles floated by.
At one point, I saw a float with a mammoth jumbotron monitor broadcasting images of Rio de Janeiro’s mountaintop Christ the Redeemer statue, his arms outstretched to… the two titanic Corona bottles (and dancing girls) positioned in front of the monitor.
Like I said– a bit strange. But hey, travel is full of such experiences and cultural differences.
I know that a lot of people are intimidated by cultural differences, things like language, architecture, social values, etc. These cultural differences effective represent change… and it can be a scary prospect.
Being able to effectively deal with change, however, is critical. After all, everything changes. Countries and cultures are constantly in flux– remember how different everything used to be 10, 20 years ago?
Over time, social values, taboos, political/economic conditions all gradually change, and no one can hide from it or wish it away.
In some cases we can call this the boiling frog– the idea that people grow accustomed to slow, gradual changes in society which consistently erode their freedom and financial opportunities until it becomes too late.
Inflation is a great example. It’s slow and gradual with a few painful spikes here and there… but in general, it’s a sluggish-enough process that most people don’t realise day to day that prices of things ranging from milk to airfare have doubled in the last decade.
Social decline, erosion of civil liberties, and loss of economic opportunity all follow the same model. Change is inevitable, it’s just a question of who’s in control.
Internationalization is one way of taking control– spreading your assets and interests across multiple jurisdictions of your choosing outside of your home country.
This includes spending time overseas. By immersing oneself in cultural differences, you find out that the big bad world isn’t so scary after all, despite what the mainstream media says.
Certainly it’s different than you’re home country– but it’s a change where you’re firmly in control… a boiling frog no more.
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