What is it? Culture has been defined as "the shared values, traditions, norms, customs, arts, history, folklore, and institutions of a group of people. Understanding culture helps us to understand how others interpret their environment. We know that culture shapes how people see their world and how they function within that world. Culture shapes personal and group values and attitudes, including perceptions about what works and what doesnt work, what is helpful and what is not, what makes sense and what does not. A cultural script is a pattern of social interaction which is characteristic of a particular cultural group.
Cultural Concepts Simpatia, and its component harmony, or the emphasis on positive behaviors in positive situations (e.g., complimenting somebody who has done a good job) and the de-emphasis of negative behaviors in negative situations (e.g., criticising) is a Latino cultural script. Latino culture is very much people-oriented; Latinos value relationships and often demonstrate behaviors that promote strong and agreeable interactions. Latinos value a persons ability to maintain these cordial and positive relationships even in the face of adversity or stress. Similar to empathy, simpatia highlights a persons ability to identify with others feelings, and therefore, considers others with formality and respect. Minimizing confrontational situations and maintaining agreement is an important element of simpatia. This might translate into an individual encouraging harmonious social relationships and preferring cooperation over competition.
Cultural Concepts The concept of Personalismo, often defined as "formal friendliness," basically means that Latinos place great emphasis on personal relationships. Latin culture is both people-oriented and collectivist, meaning that Latinos generally value personal relationships over status, material gain, and institutional relationships. Although a health care provider likely has the immediate respect of a Latino client, that respect may not become trust unless the client is convinced that the health care provider genuinely cares about them on a personal level.
Cultural Concepts Familismo (familalism) is considered to be one of the most important culture. Stemming from a collective worldview, familismo involves the strong identification and attachment to nuclear and extended family. Loyalty, reciprocity and solidarity among members of the family are associated with this attachment. Specifically, the concept of familismo includes "(a) perceived obligation to provide material and emotional support to the members of the extended family; (b) reliance on relatives for help and support; and (c) the perception of relatives as behavioral and attitudinal referents. More important, these dimensions remain fairly strong among Latinos across generations and regardless of the length of time living in the United States. In essence, aspects of familismo such as a sense of pride, belonging, and obligation to the members of the family continue to be distinctive features.
Applying Cultural Competence How can these concepts help us better understand and provide services for Latinos and the broader border communities? Challenge Assumptions/Myths Advocate for change based on realities Develop community ties and services that reflect the value of personalismo Understand grief and familismo related to violence across the border
Drug Trafficking Myths MYTH: Mexico is descending into widespread and indiscriminate violence. FACT: The country has certainly seen a big rise in drug violence, with cartels fighting for control of major narcotics shipment routes -- especially at the U.S. border and near major seaports and highways -- and branching into kidnapping, extortion and other illicit activities. Ciudad Juarez, in particular, has been the scene of major battles between two crime organizations and accounted for nearly a third of drug-linked deaths last year. The violence is not as widespread or as random as it may appear. Though civilians with no evident ties to the drug trade have been killed in the crossfire and occasionally targeted, drug-related deaths are concentrated among the traffickers. (Deaths among military and police personnel are an estimated 7 percent of the total.) Picture from LATimes - deaths from 2007 to 2008 Washington Post March 2010
Drug Trafficking Myths MYTH: The Mexican government lacks the resources to fight the cartels. FACT: The Mexican newspaper Milenio released a survey indicating that 59 percent of Mexicans believe the cartels are winning the drug war; only 21 percent believe the government is prevailing. Such assessments are well founded, but the battle against organized crime is not a lost cause. To strengthen law enforcement and restore public confidence, there is an urgent need to modernize and professionalize Mexico's police and courts. The 2008 passage of constitutional reforms in this area was a good start. As they are implemented, the changes will transform the country's judiciary from one that relies on closed courtrooms and mostly written evidence into a system where evidence is presented in open court. Washington Post March 2010
Drug Trafficking Myths MYTH: Endemic corruption allows the cartels to flourish. FACT: Corruption does continue to be a major challenge for Mexico. In 1997, for instance, the country's drug czar was found to be on the take from the Juarez cartel, and last year, the Federal Investigative Agency was dissolved after a third of the force was placed under investigation for corruption. But there appears to be a real commitment by honest officials to root out malfeasance. Recent arrests and prosecutions have brought down the head of Mexico's Interpol office, senior officials in the attorney general's office, three state public security chiefs, hundreds of state and local police officers, and a few mayors and local police commanders. Mexico is slowly cultivating a culture of lawfulness, thanks to courageous journalists and new civic organizations calling for greater accountability. Picture from 2008 bust of four anti-drug officials Washington Post March 2010
Drug Trafficking Myths MYTH: Drug violence is a Mexican problem, not a U.S. one. FACT: Hardly. Mexico and the United States share a 2,000-mile border, and our southern neighbor is also our third-largest trading partner. Since the drug cartels run a binational business -- moving drugs from south to north and weapons from north to south -- both the problem and the solution will inevitably involve Washington. Perhaps the top contribution the United States could make is to redouble its efforts to reduce American demand for illegal narcotics. The trafficking in Mexico is driven overwhelmingly by U.S. consumption -- especially of cocaine, marijuana, heroin and methamphetamine - - which is estimated to exceed $60 billion annually. Washington Post March 2010
Drug Trafficking Myths MYTH: Mexican drug violence is spilling over into the United States. FACT: Despite the violent confrontations between drug-trafficking organizations in Mexico, there has been little of the same spectacular violence on the American side of the border, even though the cartels operate with U.S.-based distribution networks. El Paso, one of the least violent cities in the United States, sits right across from Ciudad Juarez, the most violent in Mexico. Washington Post March 2010 Photo from telegraph.co.uk - Story about thousands of Mexican troops deployed against violence in border towns.
Immigration Myths MYTH: Immigrants bring crime to our cities and towns. FACT: Immigrants are actually far less likely to commit crimes than their native-born counterparts. Even as the undocumented population has increased in the United States, crime rates have decreased significantly. According to a 2000 report prepared for the U.S. Department of Justice, immigrants maintain low crime rates even when faced with adverse social conditions such as low income and low levels of education
Immigration Myths MYTH: Most immigrants are undocumented and have crossed the border illegally. FACT: Two thirds of immigrants are here lawfullyeither as naturalized citizens or in some other lawful status. Moreover, almost half of all undocumented immigrants entered the United States legally. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, one third of all immigrants are undocumented, one third have some form of legal status and one third are naturalized citizens. This applies to immigrants from Latin America as well as others INS Statistical Yearbook
Immigration Myths MYTH: There is more crime in border states than ever before, due in large part to immigration. FACT: According to FBI statistics, violent crimes reported in Arizona dropped by nearly 1,500 between 2005 and 2008. Property crimes also fell, from about 287,000 reported incidents to 279,000 in the same period. Decreases are accentuated by the fact that Arizona's population grew by 600,000 between 2005 and 2008. FBI Statistics 2010
Immigration Myths MYTH: There is a nation-wide increase in immigration. FACT: According to the nonpartisan Pew Hispanic Center, about 300,000 immigrants illegally entered the country each year from March 2007 to March 2009. That is about two- thirds fewer than the 850,000 who crossed the border each year from 2000 to 2005 Pew researchers also said the top five states to see the largest decreases in illegal immigration in 2008 and 2009 were Florida, New York, Arizona, New Jersey and California. The 8 percent reduction from 12 million to 11.1 million undocumented persons currently living in the U.S. marks the first significant reversal in this population in two decades. Pew Research Center 2010
"At a time when the Mexican government has so courageously taken on the drug cartels that have plagued both sides of the border, it is absolutely critical that the United States joins as a full partner in dealing with this issue... also on our side of the border in dealing with the flow of guns and cash south," April 2009 We have to address America's growing consumption of drugs. April 2009 Mexicos violent drug cartels increasingly resemble an insurgency with the power to challenge the government's control of wide swaths of its own soil September 2010 "We face an increasing threat from a well- organized network, drug-trafficking threat that is, in some cases, morphing into, or making common cause with, what we would consider an insurgency," September 2010 How do words of the powerful frame an issue?
What happens when the story of one mans death frames a major policy decision? Mr. Krentz was fatally shot on March 27, 2010. Law enforcement officials tracked footprints from the scene back to the border, sparking speculation that the killer was an illegal immigrant. The murder heightened the tension surrounding the immigration reform debate, with advocates of much stricter immigration controls saying Krentz's death highlights the urgent need for significantly increased border security.
Challenging the Myths The nonpartisan Immigration Policy Institute, state that proponents of the bill "overlook two salient points: Crime rates have already been falling in Arizona for years despite the presence of unauthorized immigrants, and a century's worth of research has demonstrated that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes or be behind bars than the native- born.
Challenging Myths [Politicians] are creating the artificial reality that the border is out of control, that it spills over. None of that is true, says Fernando Garcia, the executive director of the El Paso-based Border Network for Human Rights. We have a very sustainable sense of security in the community, good relations with local law enforcement.
Challenging Myths There is a perception of the border that whatever ails the U.S. as a country has to come from the outside rather from looking internally, adds Maria Jimenez, an immigrant rights organizer who works with America Para Todos in Houston.