Josh Hamborg wrote this as an undergraduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He majored in political science, with an emphasis on Latin American Studies (LACIS) and Global Cultures. Josh is from Northfield, Minnesota. Josh wrote a letter from a fictitious soldier to his commanding officer from Mexico's war for independence. He also wrote a second piece with his observations about eating out in Mexican restaurants compared to eating out in the U.S.
This letter from an imagined soldier to his commander offers a brief synopsis of the Mexican Independence Movement. I included this piece in my portfolio because when we were in Mexico we were lucky enough to go on a special tour around Queretaro in honor of the upcoming 200 year anniversary of the independence movement. The tour was led by semi-professional actors who were made available to us through the tourist board of Queretaro. Overall it was an entertaining and educational experience, and like the tour, I've tried to incorporate into this piece both lightheartedness and historical perspective.Dear Capitán Cómatose,
As your loyal soldier, I feel it is my duty to let you know how things have been going since you were knocked off your horse and put into a coma back in early 1810. I will start with some good news: Mexico has won its independence! It’s a shame that you had to unconscious through it all, but I’ll summarize what happened as best I can.
First of all, while I know you haven't been keeping up your church attendence recently, you should try to find time to thank the Church for Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, the man who made the movement possible. But I'm getting ahead of myself, it began back in 1810, shortly after your injury, with the Literary Club of Queretaro, which had as one of its most influential members Father Miguel Hidalgo. This well educated and super suave priest was important to our independence because he teamed up with Captain Ignacio Allende, with whom he helped to plan an uprising for December of that year. Unfortunately the plans leaked out and the Spanish authorities issued an order for their arrests, which forced their hand and led Father Miguel Hidalgo to prematurely distribute the “Grito de Dolores” to his parishioners and nearby residents. This document was an appeal for social and economic reform, and helped incite a largely mestizo and Indian mob of thousands to revolt.
Unfortunately, from there on out it continued to be a little rough for the leaders of the movement. For instance, although successful at first, Father Miguel Hidalgo and his associates were eventually captured and executed in Chihuahua. Picking up the cause in the year 1811, Father Jose Maria Morelos led a group of revolutionaries against the Spanish, but, sadly, he was also captured and eventually executed for his actions in 1815. He was succeeded by General Manuel Mier y Terán, but unfortunately the general was unable to unite the movement as well as his predecessor. Nevertheless, finally, on September 27, 1821, representatives of the Spanish crown, along with Augustin Iturbe, signed the Treaty of Córdoba, which recognized Mexican independence.
I can’t say it’s been pleasant to have to live through this period of turmoil, but we are free from Spain! This is an incredibly important benchmark in the history of our nation. For hundreds of years our lands have been ruled by monarchs living across the ocean from us, but now we can finally claim ownership and control of what is rightfully ours. We now hold the fate of our country in our own hands, it's easy street from now on for all of Mexico!Feel better soon,
César Morelos de los Lagos
Eating Out in Mexico
One thing that I found to particularly interesting about Mexican culture was the service at the various restaurants. Indeed, there were a number of cultural differences in how our cultures approach the very process of eating out. Consequently, by comparing and contrasting how our countries approach meals in restaurants I have come to better understand intrinsic differences in how each country values and perceives basic concepts, like that of time.
In the United States, there is a tight, regimented structure to meals, largely because that is how many of us live our lives. This structured process of eating at a restaurant begins with a staff member showing you to a table, or you finding a table on your own. After which, you will be given a menu, asked about what it is you want to drink, given time to make a decision, served drinks and have your order taken. Then you’ll wait for your meal to arrive, and once it does you will eat while being waited on. Once finished, you’ll be asked if you want dessert, then given a check that you’ll hopefully pay, and finally you’ll leave. All of which occurs in a tight, neat fashion. Of course what’s interesting about this is that this tried and true way of eating at a restaurant reflects the busy way in which many American schedule their lives. This is evidenced by the fact that you can go to restaurants almost anywhere in the United States and experience this same service.
In Mexico this disciplined arrangement of meal service is absent, revealing a much more laid back style of eating and living. The major difference in this case that leads me to this conclusion is how the ending of a meal isn’t emphasized. Not once in any restaurant that I visited was a check produced unless we asked for it specifically. It didn’t matter how long we sat there, no one seemed in a rush to see us out. This is something that I actually found to be refreshingly different. Although in some cases it was frustrating to have to wait, it allowed more time for the members of the group to get to know one another. It also gave us more time to reflect on the visits and what in particular had been interesting about all we had seen and heard that day.
I enjoyed this emphasis on viewing time in a laid back manner, and have come to see it as uniquely indicative of Mexican culture. I do not see it as being negative in any way, such as being a sign of “laziness”, but as a simple feeling of being unhurried. I feel that this concept is something that I am able to take away from this trip and use in order to help me gain a better perspective on not only other cultures, but on myself as well.