WEB EXTRA: Crossing the borders causes by stereotypes

WEB EXTRA: Crossing the borders causes by stereotypes

by Lindsey Masters

Blond hair, blue eyes, tall; they love to party, but have no rhythm v. black hair, brown eyes, short; they love to party, and dance the salsa.

Opposites? Maybe. Stereotypes? Most definitely. I recently received a list of these characteristics as the stereotypes of the differences between American and Mexican young people in an exchange between my study program and a local English-language school in Marida.

Whether these values are true or not, they determine most Mexicans’ perceptions of Americans. However, even these seemingly ridiculous external labels became trivial once I discovered their perceptions about Americans’ partying and socializing habits.

They described visions of students on Spring Break, mainly in Cancun, which is about four hours away from Marida. These are the students we have all seen on MTV, inebriated, in various stages of undress, dancing and draping themselves all over apparently random smatterings of anonymous fellow Spring Breakers and attractive locals.

Here in Mexico, partying has a very different connotation. People rarely drink to get drunk. In the U.S., this is frequently the goal of many college students on Saturday nights. In Mexican culture, drinking is a social and cultural activity. It is something that they do while chatting and dancing among friends.

We, as Americans already stand out from the masses, and this becomes even more apparent when “Joe College Student” decides to take full advantage of the 80-cent beer night at the local club or bar. We make spectacles of ourselves and proceed to become the models of the average American young person for those watching, both from other cultures and our own.

So, what about the stereotypes that we have about Mexicans? The truth is there are plenty of brown haired, blue-eyed natives of average height, who do not know how to salsa, are not involved in drug cartels, and do not attend Catholic masses.

This student exchange was designed to dissolve the stereotypes of everyone involved. Mexicans also learned that not all Americans listen to rap music, live in mansions, and drive luxury cars. We owe a great deal of these specific misconceptions to the movies and music videos that saturate our society. You may want to think about this the next time that you watch television.

Is what we see portrayed a reality for the majority? Is American life horribly glamorized and falsified by the entertainment industry? How does this create an image that justifies other cultures’ rights to despise, to judge, or to disrespect our American identity?

Furthermore, is it embarrassing to know that Mexicans assume that we are all just typical Spring Break followers solely because our skin may be light or because we may attend college or have blond hair?

Spring Break is quickly approaching and I encourage all of us to consider our actions carefully. A trend of reckless and uninhibited fun has certainly tarnished the perceptions that others have of us as America’s youth. Do we want to further embellish these stereotypes, or to set the record straight?