Father’s Day was celebrated last Sunday here in Mexico. Compared to Mother’s Day, it’s not that big a deal. Mother’s Day in Mexico is right up there with Day of the Dead, i.e. one of the BIG ones. Father’s Day, not so much. I guess that’s not much different than the way it’s celebrated in the US and Canada. The moms get the glory….and rightfully so in my opinion as a mother. But maybe we should think about dads as well.
Back in the early nineties, when I worked for the Center for Survey Research at Indiana University in Bloomington, I was a project manager on a survey we conducted for, as I recall, an adjunct of the History department at IU. An innovative survey in its time, we asked an inordinate number of open ended questions about not only US history, but family history as well.
One of the questions asked about what person, living or dead, had had the most influence on the respondents and their views of history. And every evening, as I reviewed the data collected for that day, I was quite astounded to find that the number one answer was “my father” and the second most likely response was “my grandfather.”
Now, remember, this was a survey about history and the question to which I am referring was implanted somewhere in the middle of the questionnaire. That means that even though we didn’t ask what person had the most influence on their way of knowing about, thinking about, or interpreting the past, that’s likely the question the respondents were answering.
So maybe this is one of the key roles of fathers: teaching the history of the family. Or, by not being present in the home [as in the case of single moms], still somehow by their absence imparting family history. I mean, isn’t it likely that a “missing” father would still be asked about by the children? “Tell me about my daddy.” And somehow, from that question, came answers not just about the father, but about the father’s family. That is, history.
So stop a minute and think back on it. Who in your family taught you the most history?
But that’s not really what I wanted to say about fatherhood in Mexico. What I wanted to tell you about is the role of fathers and/or grandfathers in Mexican society. Okay, wait, that’s also wrong since I have very little empirical evidence about the role of dads down here.
What I can say is this. In the US, I always thought it was great that fathers could occasionally be seen in the park playing with their kids, or walking down the street holding a baby. Here around Lake Chapala, Jalisco, Mexico, I see it constantly.
And not only that, I see on an almost daily basis Mexican dads working with their sons. My gardener in San Cristobal Zapotitlan always brought his son with him to work. Stupidly, I thought it was just a “cute” thing. Daddy lets kid tag along. But, no. As Javier told me, “I am a gardener, but I do not want my son to have to do this. He goes to school so he can be something better. But if that doesn’t work out for him, at least he will know how to be a good gardener and be able to support himself.”
So call Mexico a third world country if you want, but I’m totally impressed with how common it is to see Mexican dads spend so much time with their children. Whether they are carrying them, or holding their hands as they walk down the street, or aspiring to a better life for them, I’m Americana enough to appreciate it and Mexicana enough to take it for granted.