In around 2006, I travelled to Mexico (Puerto Vallarta) for the first time and stayed at an all inclusive hotel. PV was known to be the more authentic and rustic part of the tourist attraction. There’s a part of town called the old Puerto Vallarta where street vendors locate themselves and sold to tourists many traditional Mexican goods.
An older woman of maybe about 70yrs old was selling handmade blankets for about $25cdn. If I was a local and not a tourist, it might only cost 1/3 of that and she still would have profited. It is common for every local person to be working. It doesn’t matter if you’re 2 and 1/2 yrs old or if you’re 90yrs old, if you are alive and of sound mind and body, you will be worked. Common asian work ethics.
At a local bar on the main streets of PV, tourists would go enjoy themselves to American music, pay full cover price (about $8-10cdn) and have drinks and shots for about the same price as Canada (less the tax). These prices are definitely not for locals so there were very few, if any, local customers at this bar. Instead, they would conveniently dance and listen to American music outside or ACROSS the street since there were no windows and the music were loud. To me, that felt creepy…as if someone was snooping from the outside and checking you out.
I was waiting outside the washroom when a local busboy came up to me and asked me where I’m from. He was from Mexico, of course, a local, and had a thick accent. He seems to have never traveled outside PV before. I told him, “I’m from Canada.” and he replied, “but you’re like THIS.” (He takes his two index fingers and pulls the corner of his eyes to his sides indicating that I have almond-shaped Chinese eyes)
My first reaction was: Should I be upset that he just made fun of me? Or wait a minute, he just doesn’t know about who or what Canadians look like. I replied back: “No, I’m Canadian. I’m from Canada but born in Hong Kong.” He looked a little dumbfounded but didn’t want to ask more questions and walked away.
I’m not upset with his actions…if it was in any other context, I would laugh and make a joke out of it. (Not a sourpuss) But this brings up a really good point about cultural differences or ignorance depending on how you look at it.
Take for example the recent criticisms on where chocolate comes from. Stromboulopoulis provides us with insight on trafficking children and how chocolate corporations try to manage and stop these activities. While I definitely do not condone these practices, I have heard of these practices as a child myself in China and definitely one of my relatives have been trafficked or traded by the elders in hopes of a ‘better future’.
I watched the entire documentary (5 parts on Youtube) and tried to understand it from a 1st world’s perspective then from the 3rd world’s perspective. Very different for sure. When viewing from a 1st world’s perspective, my first reaction is that I’m glad I don’t live in that kind of society anymore where I have to worry about abduction, trafficking, hunger etc. But I also respect and appreciate, from a 1st world’s perspective, how kids of such young age are able to use their hands to create for themselves what many children would have no idea or desire to learn in the 1st world. Yes, it is about survival but there’s also the desire to help his or her family which is taken for granted here in North America more times than not.
From a 3rd world’s perspective, I can only draw onto real stories of my grandparents, who gave away their daughters, or my aunts, because they wanted only 2 sons and 2 daughters in the family. It was more or less not talked about but I found out eventually. I’ve also watched numerous old school Asian TV series of how the Chinese were to ‘find riches in the West’ but only to find they were brought to do slave work and build railroads in North America. Of course these are all wrong actions and decisions regardless of whether I’m looking at it from a 1st or 3rd world’s perspective but behind these stories are circumstances of which only the people themselves could explain or understand.
Some of the children from the Cacao farms dropped out of school themselves because they believed in helping their family more than education. Who’s to blame then if they chose it themselves? Do they know any better? Or maybe it was the teachers’ fault because they didn’t know how to teach. Or it’s the corporations fault for not trying to change a society’s point of view more. It definitely gets more complicated than our 1st world’s judgment.
1st world views on problems
When money and food is scarce and you have a whole family or possibly a village to feed, people are left with few options. It is difficult to comprehend when it has never been experienced and I’m sure none of us want to experience this. But there’s the argument of who should pay more for chocolate so these kids can enjoy a better life? Consumers or Corporations? But wait, chocolate is a how many billion dollars business? Who’s winning? Corporations are giving 1% back to the communities? How about lowering their profit margins just like every other corporations that may be the cause of the downfall of our economy? Eat less or no chocolate? Maybe but who’s gonna want to cut back on funding then?… exactly.
In the end, it’s not the 3rd world’s perspective we need to change. It is the 1st world’s greed for money and material goods and the believe that everything need to be handed to him or her on a silver platter that seems to be the biggest problem. Who can start a movement on changing the minds of us all without pointing fingers on the other? If we need to point, are we willing to point it at the mirror first? If we ask for change, can we first change our own point of views before asking for others to change? If we need to make documentaries, can we make it on how we’ve begun to change ourselves and who we might have taken with us? I’ll watch it and will click share.