Nacirema Society Term Paper

Pages: 5 (1809 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 6  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Sports - Women

Cross-Cultural Comparison Between Mexicans in Ciudad Juarez and Indians in Ecuador

The cultural identities and customs of the Latino / Mexican people who live and work in the Mexican border town, Ciudad Juarez, and the identities and customs of the Jivaro Indians who live in the Ecuadorian Amazon jungle, are vastly different. Yet both are to be respected in their own right. The modern world of industrialization and globalization has created tension in Ciudad Juarez, which has led to numerous unsolved murders of young women - a horrifying kind of warfare against women that is difficult to understand and accept. On the other hand, in the Ecuadorian Amazon Jungle, the Jivaro Indians have also been affected by the modern world, but not to the extent of the Mexicans, albeit the Jivaro have their own warfare issues. This culture lives today much like they lived centuries ago - with shaman rituals, witchcraft and hallucinogenic drugs as much a part of their culture as murder and factory work is part of the Ciudad Juarez culture.

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MEXICAN BORDER CULTURE: First, the a close look at the Mexican culture in Ciudad Juarez, where the sprawling city of El Paso is just north of Ciudad Juarez. Things have changed, it is clear, between the U.S. And Mexico since NAFTA. Alicia Schmidt Camacho published a research piece in the New Centennial Review (Camacho 2005) that examines the "troubling status of poor migrant women" who became "political actors in the denationalized space of Ciudad Juarez" (Camacho 256). Camacho explains that if the border jobs resulting from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and globalization have in fact "...encouraged the disarticulation of citizenship rights from membership to a single national community..."

By the 1840s and 1850s, U.S. Anglos looked with distaste upon Mexicans in terms that conflated and stigmatized their race and nationality," writes Ian F. Haney Lopez in the Harvard Civil Rights - Civil Liberties Law Review. How ironic that the male gender of this same "race" of people [Mexicans] currently living and working in Ciudad Juarez has created a situation where young Mexican women are stigmatized because of their gender and their race, and killed for reasons that are not entirely clear.

TOPIC: Term Paper on Nacirema Society Assignment

Jessica Livingston writes in Frontiers: A Journal of Women's Studies that above and beyond these unsolved killings of hundreds of young women, Ciudad Juarez is a dangerous place indeed; to wit, in the first nine months of 1998, women in Juarez reported "eight hundred cases of rape and over nine thousand cases of violence, including rape, kidnapping, and domestic violence." The research on misogynic violence in Juarez takes into account the fact that "...globalization has complicated class relations"; and indeed in Juarez, the murders need to be placed in their socioeconomic and ideological context in an effort to "analyze the gendering of production, the gendering of violence, and the relationship of the two."

Another of the theories put forward by Livingston in an attempt to understand the sexualized killings of hundreds of women (most of them young) in the Ciudad Juarez area has as its foundation "male resentment and hostility" over women in the maquiladora (foreign-owned factories) workplace. Livingston asserts flatly that the killing of so many young women likely result from "...displacement of economic frustration onto the bodies of women who work" as cheap labor. And hence, they become "disposable" within that maquiladora system, making it "possible, and perhaps acceptable, to kill them with impunity" (Livingston 60).

And certainly economics plays a distinct role here: a principal component of patriarchal manhood in Mexico is being the breadwinner; so when unemployment and low pay compromises this masculine value, and the women have to go to work (even for low wages), resentment is born and can fester over time, according to Livingston's analysis of the psychological dynamic surrounding this terrible series of crimes. Moreover, "men feel threatened when their wives and daughters earn more money," even though women have more say than ever over "budgeting and domestic decisions." second reflection of resentment is the catcalling and sexually inappropriate harassment of women by men in the maquiladora shop; men are just attempting "to put women in their (traditional) place." Indeed, just a few years ago, Livingstone continues, a woman's place was very different than today; women were not permitted to socialize with men "unchaperoned," and parents selected marriage partners for young people. Also, a Mother Jones article explains that Mexico is a society where " cannot be charged with raping their wives," and as far as domestic abuse, there are rarely prosecutions. "Authorities simply to not take violence against women seriously enough," the article's author Nieves explains.

Meanwhile, traditional gender roles in Ciudad Juarez (and much of Mexico) play out in a way that women's wages are always lower than men's due to motherhood. "[Having] a child implies a lowering of productivity," Livingston writes; and the very fact that a female worker could become pregnant keeps wages for women low because the female maquiladora employee is always thought of as a temporary worker. "...Factories use the potential role of motherhood to devalue women's worth as workers while maximizing productivity" (Livingston 68).

Further, because women dress more casually at work then in normal social situations, managers in maquiladora workplaces send a message - and they benefit from the message - that "you can't tell the difference between a prostitute and a female maquiladora worker" (Livingston 68). Nothing degrades a woman more than being linked with prostitution.

As to the actual murder scenes, Livingston continues on page 71, police investigations have left a lot to be desired, but even forensic evidence done well "will neither solve or stop these murders." By simple analysis of the crime scenes of many of the women, "one can deduce that the sexualized murder suggests anger at the increasing sexual independence of young women in Mexico," Livingstone asserts (71). Breasts are often mutilated, suggesting "anger at women's use of their bodies" for things beyond nurturing and mothering. The victims are mostly working women, which seems to point the finger at male resentment (alluded to in the above paragraphs) at women's "increasing economic independence."

EQUADORIAN INDIANS' CULTURE: Meanwhile, in the Jivaro Indians' culture, far from being murdered and disrespected, the woman is greatly prized and protected, partly because of the plants she helps grow. To give an idea of how important some plants are to the lives and beliefs of the Jivaro people, the author of the book, the Jivaro: People of the Sacred Waterfalls, Michael J. Harner, an anthropologist and an ethnographer, explains on page 70 that the "Nunui" (a spirit, or fairy), provides supernatural help for the woman of the family, which it vital to the success of important plants.

The Nunui's help in the garden is important for the natives, not just in the process of growing food items like sweet potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, squash, red peppers, onions, pineapple, banana, and other edibles. The Nunui also helps in the growing of medicinal plants and hallucinogenic plants (drugs) such as Banisteriopsis species, and Datura Arborea.

The Banisteriopsis is harvested from the garden (and the wilds) and boiled with (Harner p. 153) a vine that is similar, called Jahi, and when the Banisteriopsis is cooled into a tea called natema. The natema tea, the ethnographer reports, contains a powerful hallucinogenic substance made up of the alkaloids "harmaline, harmine, d-tetrahydroharmine, and quite possibly N, N-dimethyltryptaime (DMT).

The results from drinking the natema tea is apparently what the Jivaro believe is a way to achieve enlightenment, and they also believe they are given the ability to obtain knowledge from natema through the much higher consciousness and much more intense senses that the drug brings on. A reader of this book on the Jivaro can make that assumption, because the ethnographer Harner compares taking natema with an experience like LSD, or mescaline (from the peyote cactus), psilocybin (from the psychotropic Mexican mushroom). LSD is an extremely powerful drug, and though mescaline is a little less powerful, it, along with psilocybin, is very strong, and alters a person's consciousness dramatically.

Shamans use natema "for going into trances" and to go into those trances "frequently," and therefore those must be very conscious changing trances, since natema is compared with LSD.

The potency of the natema, though, is not quite as great as the strength of the maikua (made from Datura arborea); the Datura is so strong, Harner writes, that to use it over and over would lead to insanity. Interestingly, because the natema allows any person to get "high" (achieve a hallucinogenic experience) - "to achieve the trance state essential for the practice of shamanism" (p. 154) - it is not too surprising "that approximately one out of every four Jivaro men is a shaman." To become a shaman, "any adult, male or female...simply presents a gift to an already practicing shaman, who administers the Banisteriopsis drink and gives some of his own supernatural power - in the form of spirit helpers, or tsentsak - to the… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Nacirema Society" Term Paper in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Nacirema Society.  (2007, June 1).  Retrieved September 28, 2021, from

MLA Format

"Nacirema Society."  1 June 2007.  Web.  28 September 2021. <>.

Chicago Style

"Nacirema Society."  June 1, 2007.  Accessed September 28, 2021.