Today, we live in a multiethnic and multicultural society driven by globalization, a wide range of geopolitical factors and socio-economic influences. The classic clinical setting is best known for offering unique opportunity to hone cultural competence by working with clients from different cultures other than your own. Such experiences provide an opportunity for clinical staff to gain a better understanding of patterns in human behavior specific to a particular group and some of the defining tenets of their culture. My culture paper written assignment features my experience working with a Mexican client. The accompanying discussion will include an in-depth review of the cultural characteristics of the Mexican people, activating events causing their migration to the United States, my prior knowledge of this culture, popular biases and myths, recommendations for working with this cultural group, my reflection and a conclusive summary.
Population’s Cultural Characteristics
During our first meeting, my Hispanic client self-identified as a Mexican. I immediately assumed that he was either born in Mexico, is a Mexican national, or of Mexican parentage. Further inquiry revealed that the client was, in fact, a Mexican national recently granted U. S. citizenship after satisfying requirements for asylum seekers set by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Mexicans have a rich and vibrant culture punctuated by key exceptional characteristics. The turn of the 21st century and the recent drive towards industrialization saw a sizeable majority of Mexicans move to larger towns and cities mainly in search of employment opportunities. Yet, the archetypal Mexican culture seems intact and is majorly preserved by pockets of rural populations in the country’s hinterland. The Mexican culture consists of Amerindian-Spanish groups and a minority white Ibero-American population.
Although indigenous groups such as the Maya still live in Mexico, the main language spoken by a majority of Mexicans is Spanish. Furthermore, Spanish influence is still evident among Mexicans in their staunch adherence to Roman Catholicism and Christian values systems (Rankin & Berger, 2011). The Mexican culture also underscores the importance of family and living in harmony with the immediate community. It is, therefore, common for Mexicans to live in households consisting of tight-knit families; inclusive of both nuclear and extended family members.
Mexican culture also emphasizes greatly on traditional gender roles. While the man is generally viewed as the traditional head of a household, women have often been expected to play the role of homemaker and taking care of the family (Morlock, 2017). Additionally, Mexican culture is also underpinned by respect for parents and elders. The culture is further enriched by an exceptional cuisine, embroidery shawls, and popular arts such as Mariachi folk music.
Activating Events Causing Migration
The migration of Mexican nationals into the U.S. is a long and well-documented phenomenon. Initially, immigrants from northerly regions such as Durango and Jalisco were recruited by U.S. employers desperate to address a shortage in labor within the service industry. After the 1970s, the U.S. was now forced to grapple with illegal immigration as a reality mainly along cities such as Texas and El Paso as a new wave of migrants sought dwindling economic opportunities across the Mexican border (Juckett, 2013). Several activating push and pull factors are behind the Mexican migration to the United States.
Economics play a central role in fanning the migration of Mexican nationals to the United States. As of 2020, Mexico was still regarded as an emerging market economy and fell short of being classified as a developed country. Its nationals, therefore, grapple with limited economic opportunities, an ever-rising national debt, and erratic fluctuations in currency value (Telles & Sue, 2019). On the other hand, the United States is on an upward economic spiral and greatly expanded its service labor market; attracting Mexican nationals in a desperate search for reliable employment opportunities.
Migration to the United States is also a consequence of the United States’ image as a pinnacle of globalization in the West. This is further exacerbated by the stark differences evident in Mexico, even with its close proximity to the United States. Migrating to the United States, either legally or illegally, is viewed by many as second chance at life, especially given the promise of educational opportunities and social progress. Additionally, relaxed migration policies, the presence of a porous Mexico-U.S. border, and new policies such as family reunification have further promoted migration.
Moreover, the civil unrest and public violence witnessed in Mexico also influences migration to the United States. The civil unrest witnessed since the early days of the revolution to Mexico’s current status as a multi-party state has failed to cement a sense of stability among its people. This is further worsened by the on-going so-called “war on drugs” by the United States and unending skirmishes between local drug lords for control of this highly lucrative illegal trade. Mexican nationals are ultimately able to migrate and settle in the United States due to the latter’s refugee policy and commitment to protecting vulnerable populations against human rights abuses.
Prior Knowledge of Culture
While my spoken Spanish is negligible, I had prior knowledge of the Mexican culture. Two of my close friends are of Mexican descent and I too had spent hours reading about different cultures I was likely to encounter in my practice. My client was a 55-year-old senior citizen requiring routine dialysis. From the onset, I made certain that I approached her in a respectful manner given her advanced age. I was fully cognizant of the value of respect in Mexican culture and the primary reason why veneration took precedence. Initially, one of the nurses on duty briefly played the role of interpreter before being assigned to a new patient. I made the most of this opportunity to communicate directly with my client and obtain important background information before proceeding with the assessment. As a sign of respect, I routinely addressed her using the courtesy title Señora to establish rapport. However, after the sudden exit of my translator I resorted to using the Cyracom phone service to access a translator.
My knowledge of the importance of family in the Mexican culture also played a leading role during my assessment. I started by inquiring about my client’s family and why she had reported to the community care health clinic alone, especially considering that Mexican’s pride themselves in their tight knit families. I soon learnt that my client was living with her son who was also the sole breadwinner for their extended family. She explained that he was at work and would pass by the hospital as soon as his shift ended at a local automotive manufacturing company. Furthermore, I was preoccupied with my client’s wellbeing and was keen on providing a level of reassurance. My knowledge of the Roman Catholicism as the bed rock of Mexican culture came in handy during this period. I was quick to inform her that her family was likely praying her at that very moment and that her health would certainly improve given the expertise of our world-class team of clinical staff. Additionally, I personally assured her that I would be praying for her with the hopes of raising her spirits and increasing the likelihood of receptivity to some of the most suitable treatment options. The experience was both eye-opening and exciting since it exposed me to Mexican culture in a clinical environment and how to use prior knowledge of the culture to improve patient outcomes.
Biases and Myths about the Mexican Culture
Stereotyping is often viewed as part and parcel of the human condition. It is, therefore, no wonder that American society is awash with numerous biases and myths about Mexican people and their culture. A better understanding of major stereotypes serves as a guide for the public and clinical staff while ensuring that decisions made are based on informed judgments.
One of the main biases about individuals from the Mexican culture, especially in the United States, is that they have a penchant for breaking the law and are probably illegal immigrants. However, this is often not the case. The population of Mexicans living in the United States does not purely consist of illegal immigrants but Mexican nationals granted legal citizenship status. In my case, my client was a legal immigrant who was previously granted asylum by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Today, the myth the prevalence of social vices such as drug dealing and crime in the Mexican culture is widespread in the United States. Part of this paranoia is fueled by populist leaders such as the rhetoric by former President Donald J. Trump about Mexican people as people with criminalistics tendencies. Furthermore, limited public awareness of Mexican culture also hinders the dissemination of truthful information. While the narcotics trade maybe situated and directed from Mexico, a sizeable cross-section of immigrants migrating to the United States are actually victims fleeing the brutal reign of drug cartels and accompanying lawlessness.
Another common stereotype about Mexican immigrants is that they are largely uneducated and with a low level of intelligence. This erroneous assertion may be informed by the fact that Mexican immigrants are majorly employed in the service labor industry and in jobs requiring minimal skilled labor (Telles & Sue, 2019). However, this is a generalization since Mexicans in the United States can be found working in a spectrum of professions, both skilled and unskilled. Mexican immigrants often work in the service labor industry as a consequence of personal circumstances, its availability, and flexibility in cases where a valid work permit is not required.
Policies and Practices Affecting Interaction
The implementation of clinical standards and policies is meant to guarantee that the highest standards of care are always upheld to improve patient outcomes and promote wellbeing. Yet, some of these very policies and practices may also impede interaction between clinical staff and patients. Knowledge of this fact is key to the application of progressive polices focusing exclusively on patient welfare.
Limited knowledge of special medical concerns may affect interactions and hinder the timely provision of appropriate healthcare. For instance, diabetes mellitus and morbid obesity is disproportionally higher among Mexican Americans in comparison to other ethnicities such as non-Hispanic whites. Poor knowledge of this fact may result in diagnosis during advanced stages of disease progression and a reduced chance of having comorbid conditions such as hypertension treated.
Attitudes to healthcare and folk healing are also poorly explored by healthcare professionals and may affect interactions with individuals from this healthcare. Latinos are known for their strong spiritual beliefs and the application of reference to folk healing as is the case with the Mexican curanderismo (Holland, 2016). Prior evaluation of the patient should involve questions on whether they previously visited traditional healers to review the type of help offered and whether it had any lasting impact on their wellbeing.
Recommendations Working with the Culture
- Hospital units should always have a member well-versed in Spanish or translation services such as those offered by Cyracom phone services in care the client cannot communicate in English.
- Understanding family dynamics and their subsequent involvement in treatment is crucial for Mexican patients and has major impact on the patient outcomes.
- The approach to care when working with patients from the Mexican culture should involve a deep understanding of cultural and folk values and their attitudes towards healthcare.
Working with a client from the Mexican was one of my most insightful and educational experiences yet. My awareness of nuances informing the behavioral aspects of the culture, such as the significance of family, religion, and showing respect to elders, made it possible to provide holistic care to my client while adhering to the highest standards of care. In retrospect, I believe that prior knowledge of the culture played the foremost role in improving patient outcomes and should be underscored as part of cultural competence
The reality of multiplicity in modern society now means that medical professions should always be prepared to encounter patients from cultures different from their own. My experience with a Mexican client taught me the importance of cultural competence in a clinical setting and its role in improving patients in the long haul. This knowledge should span cultural characteristics, activating events causing their migration, my prior knowledge of the culture, popular biases and myths in order to improve the approach to care, especially by community primary care provider.