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Mexico at the Crossroads: Ambiguities and Uncertainties

Cultural Perspectives

By Tim Hazell

Archaeological evidence suggests that the overall standard of living in Mexico, including distribution of staple necessities to households, was higher in pre-Conquest communities than it is today. Throughout Mexico’s history, exchanging raw materials for manufactured goods resulted in local, regional, and national trade, extending north into the United States and south into Central America. For today’s cosmopolitan markets, theories of exchange, practical aspects of commerce and competitiveness, and proposals for stimulating new incentives address technology and innovation from Latin American perspectives.

Mexico is a nation with 62 languages and a melting pot of ethno-cultural traditions. Recovering what may have been lost through unchecked progress has become a daunting responsibility. Small family-owned ranches with plots of land for cultivating corn, vegetables, and products used for animal feed have been taken over by large conglomerates. Alfalfa and other commercial staples for national markets and international export use pesticides and irresponsible agricultural and irrigation practices to force-grow excessive surpluses of these crops.

Neighboring townships suffer from toxic runoff and lost income from homegrown products that could be sold at local and regional markets. The results of a systematic and indiscriminate exploitation of resources and breakdown of the original distribution system are evident in the crisis facing contemporary Mexico’s rural populations.

Mexico remains a country in which artists and artisans find real incentives for the handcrafted products of their ethnic traditions and imaginations. In a nation where urban industrial-technological growth is sporadic and has little effect on small isolated communities, arts and crafts represent a real industry for people who are otherwise unable to break their cycles of poverty. Parallels exist in modern India, where rural cottage-based industries provide basic necessities for the families and cooperatives involved.

Mexican cultures are an amalgam of incredibly diverse symbols, codes, semiotics, and semantics. Its populations are shaped by socialization, coercion, and cooperative consensus. Individuals, their sociocultural infrastructures, aggregate conscience, personalities, and actions determine the effects of outside globalization. The Mexican collective imbibes, transforms, and releases artifacts that are exchanged freely, shared, and assimilated communally, creating a landscape of faiths, visions, and aspirations.

Mexican artists seek fresh perspectives in old traditions through grants, competitions, and awards. Mexico’s cuisine reflects its avant-garde as well as the earthy accents of time-honored recipes such as this one.

Peanut Sauce


3 tbsp. lime juice

1 tbsp. oil

1/4 onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic

1 tsp. cinnamon

6 peppercorns

6 whole cloves

1-1/2 cups toasted, unsalted peanuts

2 large broiled (blackened) tomatoes

2 canned chile chipotles in adobado sauce


Heat oil in a skillet. Fry onion and garlic gently until soft. Toast peppercorns and cloves in a small pan until fragrant. Grind in a coffee or spice grinder. Put lime juice, onion, garlic, cinnamon, peppercorns, cloves, peanuts, tomatoes, and chiles into a blender jar with a pinch of salt and sugar and blend until smooth, adding water if necessary. Use with chicken or pork.


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