An Eye-Opening Exploration, Comparison, and Reflection of Social Structures in Mexico and the United States

By Caitlin Petrellese

For my collaborative online international learning experience I was placed on a team with Alexa, Fernando, and Ian from Universidad de Monterrey, we became known as team 8. In March of this year after meeting on zoom with our entire class, and then also separately as a team, we were asked to complete an assignment where we read up on and then created a reflection on the systems of government and religion in our own countries.  

In other words, I was writing to my partners in Mexico explaining the social structures of U.S. government and religion, while they were writing to me explaining the same structures of Mexico. Not only did this help us refresh ourselves on these structures and systems but also offered our partners a general explanation of these functions in our own country. This set a great foundation for creating greater understanding in discussing other topics such as politics and migration.  

As an American I was aware that our educational systems and society in general are not very concerned with learning about other cultures and countries. However, I feel as this activity was a perfect place for me to start in correcting that unconscious bias I have as an American. It definitely increased my intercultural and global awareness to learn that modern day Mexico and modern-day U.S. have a fair number of structures in common. For example, it was clarified for me by my partners that just like the U.S., Mexico has a president who is elected to serve a limited term. Furthermore, Mexico is also separated into states and has a government which is checked and balanced by the three branches of government; legislative, judicial, and executive.  

In addition to being educated on Mexico’s governmental structures as my partners understood them, they were also able to offer me insight into how religion was structured in Mexico. The major difference I was able to reflect on with this comparison was how Mexico is much more dominantly Christian than the U.S.. Although the U.S. is largely Christian, from personal experience I know that it is more of a melting pot, or at least salad bowl when it comes to our religious structure. Although my partners and I agreed that both countries are secular, we also agreed that Christianity, being the religion followed by upwards of 70% of the population strongly influences many other aspects of life in Mexico such as holidays, customs, and values. This brought to my attention that growing up around a variety of different religions and the normalcy of people of those different religions interacting in all other aspects of life might be more exclusively an American experience. This made me grateful to have had the opportunity to grow up in the States.  

Personally, this activity provided me with a lot of hope for my generation and the positive change we can incite in the future. I felt that this activity really connected me and my partners on a human level. It caused us to notice the many values, morals, and ways of living we have in common. In a weird way, our discussion of these structures and systems of our societies drew attention to the idea that at the end of the day we are all humans, and we all function pretty similarly. 

This supports the idea crucial to Catholic social teaching that we are all one human community above anything else. This activity drew attention to the fact that although we do live in different countries our ways of life are so similar because we all share a human brain, heart, and body. This means that at the end of the day we all need the same love, support, and compassion regardless of the earthly labels that we use to define each other on earth. Ultimately, this activity proved that solidarity across borders is possible, and I believe that the connections this course provided us with could be the beginning of a beautiful show of solidarity.   

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