Back in 1978, a Palestinian-American called Edward Said wrote an important book called Orientalism. It describes a way of seeing that exoticizes, emphasizes, exaggerates and distorts the differences of peoples and cultures compared to that of Europe and the U.S. It often involves seeing other cultures (in Said’s case Arab culture) as backward, uncivilized, and at times dangerous.
These patronizing representations of the ‘other’ are still prevalent in our media today; in the books we read, the news we consume and the movies that we watch. In the U.S. it is usually Mexico and Latin America which are the main targets of Orientalism; they are often portrayed as murderous places full of drugs, crime and violence. According to Said, this creation of a dangerous and mysterious ‘other’ helps to better secure the stability and supremacy of the Western self.
People have noticed that when Mexico (or a place that’s supposed to be Mexico) is shown on American movies, it is very often seen through a sepia-toned lens, giving it a hot, dusty, ‘foreign’ air that is actually far from the reality. Why do they do this? Do they do it on purpose, or has it become ingrained as a subconscious habit? Who knows. But it’s clearly a thing, as you can see from some of the memes that poke fun at it below.
What do you think? Is it important that we examine the ways we represent other places, peoples and cultures? Or are we simply reading far too much into it? Scroll down to check out the memes for yourself, and let us know what you think in the comments!
With thanks to culture trip, here a few facts about Mexico that you might not have known!
A Mexican inventor created the world’s first birth control: Luis Ernesto Miramontes Cardenas, a 25 year old Mexican chemist came up with the chemical compound – that would become the first birth control pills – in 1951. Miramontes, along with fellow scientists, preformed the first synthesis of norethisterone, which would go on to make up the main component of the first birth control pills.
68 indigenous languages are spoken in Mexico: Mexican law recognizes 68 official indigenous languages in the country, even though Spanish is the language used for most commercial and all governmental business. Within these 68 languages that are also dozens of variations and the number of indigenous dialects spoken in Mexico most likely numbers close to 200. Many of these languages are very much in danger of extinction, only surviving among small communities and often only spoken by the older generation.
Mexico is home to one of the most unique agricultural systems in the world: The Valley of Mexico has long been a fertile and habitable region because of an ingenious agricultural system developed by early indigenous groups and amplified by the Aztecs when they came to power. A system of canals and ‘floating gardens’, now only found in the south of the city, were developed as a way to feed its masses, control flooding and transport goods throughout the area. The chinampas, as they are called, have been compared to the Nile river valley and the rice paddies of China in terms of uniqueness and importance in the history of global agriculture.
Mexico is the second ‘biggest’ country in the world: Unfortunately, almost 1 in 6 adults in Mexico have diabetes and heart disease, while other weight-related issues run rampant. Why the soaring obesity rate? Many blame the continued industrialization of Mexico’s food system, which has made processed, fatty foods and sugary drinks more available than healthier options. No prizes for guessing who comes in at number 1.
Mexico has 34 UNESCO world heritage sites: Mexico has a lot of world heritage to protect these days, boasting an incredible 34 UNESCO world heritage sites within its borders. The list includes historic centers in towns like Guanajuato, Mexico City and Puebla, along with dozens of ancient ruins, the agave fields of Tequila, Jalisco and the Whale Sanctuary of El Vizcaino in Baja California.
Color TV was invented in Mexico: Without Mexico, the world would be a lot more black and white. Guillermo González Camarena was an inventor who created the chromoscopic adapter for television equipment, an early color TV transmission system. The year was 1942 and he was only 17! His first color transmission was from Mexico City in 1946.
Do you have any lesser-known facts about the amazing country of Mexico that people should know? Share them in the comments!