Class issues still pervade both away and at home

Class issues still pervade both away and at home

by Lindsey Masters

Class structures are still alive and well in the Yucatan. Although the United States has a set of its own, I think both Mexico and the U.S. have become so accustomed to following the structure that we forget its existence.

Quickly, you learn the ropes of class obligations in the Yucatan, whether you’re on the street or at a club. A person of lower class never makes eye contact with a person who enjoys higher social status-it’s a respectful gesture. Likewise, a higher-class individual would never consider this type of interaction with someone of lower class. Americans tend to demonstrate this superiority as well, but it’s not as meticulously followed, as it appears to be here.

A grand difference is evident when you walk through neighborhoods. The rich, middle class and the poor all live among one another. Sometimes, you’ll see several primitive houses with no windows, doors, or sewers next to sprawling haciendas with every modern convenience imaginable.

Now, compare this with U.S. neighborhoods. The trend seems to center around ignoring that poverty exists. We suppress the ghettos and impoverished areas into the inner city, while we develop suburbia worlds for those enjoying similar class privileges. In the United States, we turn away from poverty and suffering. In the Yucatan, you look poverty and wealth in the face, all within the same block.

Class structure also earns certain privileges. Similar to the philosophy in the U.S., it’s whom you know. It is virtually impossible to enter a club on VIP night unless you are with someone with connections. It proves even more difficult if you appear to be of Mayan descent. People of Mayan ancestry still endure discrimination in Mexico today.

I would mildly compare this to the plight of African Americans before the civil rights movement, minus the heinous murders and torture. To my knowledge, these acts are not part of the oppression that takes place here. However, Mayan descendants are denied entry into clubs and are ignored in restaurants and bars. They also have a lesser chance of attending college due to the expense, and for this reason, they often take low-paying jobs.

Hence, class structure is both born and maintained. So where do Americans fit into this class structure? For the most part, we’re labeled as higher class, even if that doesn’t accurately represent our social standing back in the states.

I notice the privileges I have everyday due to these assumptions. When I walk down the street, I must initiate a smile or a “Buenos días” to a passerby. Even then, the gesture may not be returned. I may be accepted more readily at a club than those standing in line. When all tables appear reserved or occupied, the waiter will check again just to be sure. I am never turned away or ignored.

Too often, we become unaware of the daily privileges we exercise, no matter where we live. Or perhaps, we are all too aware and we take advantage of these privileges in certain situations. We don’t realize that there are opposing worlds, one of privilege, one of obligation.

Would your life be different had you grown up on the opposite side?