Honorable participants, presenters and guests, We welcome you to the First International Conference for Conflict Resolution.
This is an historical event and we celebrate it. We thank those who have made this day possible. The organizers Honorable Frank Evans from Houston and Licensiado Santiago Gonzales from San Miguel, the presenters, and participants. We welcome you all to the Warren Hardy School.
Frank wanted me to talk to you today about the role social protocol and cultural understanding plays in preventing conflict. He also asked me help you understand how the United Sates and Mexico are different and what Americans in particular need to do to succeed in business in Mexico. Finally, I want to highlight the importance of conflict resolution and how your participation in this event effects world peace.
My work and interest for many years has been to help American business people and tourists adjust to Mexico.
Using proper social protocol is the first step to appearing like a cultured and well meaning person. Social protocol is the basis of cultural understanding and cultural understanding is the understanding that individuals and business need to have strong personal bonds. Without these cultural understandings and cultural bonds it is difficult for people to weather the storms of change in the business environment. Without cultural understanding, when conflict occurs, hearts and minds close and resolution is difficult if not impossible.
You would be surprised how many people believe that because we share the same borders, that people from Mexico and The United States, share the same values. It is important to know that we are in fact we value different things and why?
To understand the values of any country we have to understand its history. Octavio Paz once said, ” The only thing all Mexicans have in common and the only thing we cannot escape is our history.” The same could be said about America but it isn’t that simple.
In the book LIMITS OF FRIENDSHIP written by José Casteñeda, 1998 the recent Mexican Foreign Minister and now presidential candidate, he says:
“The center of the problem is simply the United States is a nation that does not feel a need to remember its past and Mexico cannot afford to forget it.”
So what it about our histories that is so important? Why can´t Mexicans afford to forget their pasts and why should Americans remember theirs?
Lets look at their history and maybe you can draw your own conclusion:
Realizing that I am in a room of lawyers here is my disclaimer: I want to emphasize that it is impossible to capture precisely the nature of any one people. There are so many variations within any given race, culture, or nationality. Only generalities can be made and generalities can be dangerous. These generalities are based on the preponderance of the evidence and know that my intentions are good.
First: American History
American history is very short, mainly because Americans don´t think about their history much. Americans tend to look forward instead of back They remember that columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492. that the independence was in 1776 and Of course, Texans remember the Alamo.
Americans say Upward and Onward
America was founded in 1620 by pilgrims that came here seeking religious freedom. Historians tell us that they believed that they were the chosen people that were coming to the promised land. Pilgrims were especially individual minded.
They were the Separatists:
They wanted a new political identity and spiritual identity. They believed that if they were righteous they would prosper. Puritans were the Spiritual intellects. Knowledge of the scriptures was essential. They believed they were guided by God. They believed that the code of righteousness was the word in the bible.
John Calvin is considered the founder of the Puritan Ethic prohibited dancing, drinking, gambling, card playing, fashionable clothes and other amusements.(Nothing was left for the Puritan to do but work.) to quote from the Puritan Ethic “Work gives man moral dignity, and economic success gives him honor”
Work gives dignity – Success gives honor.
They believed that hard work was character building and morally good. They basically believed that hard work was the main factor in producing material wealth.
Puritans viewed prosperity as a gift from God.. They believed that money in itself was good and riches were consistent with Godliness Calvin said “The more he hath, the more advantage he hath to do good with it.” Puritans viewed prosperity as Gods gift.
While they sailed to America the Mayflower Compact was created that they would “Combine together into a civil body politic, for the general good of the colony”.
1620 first group -102 people, 41 families seeking religious freedom they brought books, household furnishings, livestock and staple foods. There were carpenters, joiners, and smiths, with the tools of their trades. They also brought an 80,000 acre land grant, fishing rights, authority to create a system of self government called “self government by the Kings Command”. Most were educated and many held positions of authority in England.
The first year for the puritans was difficult but they were saved by the indians who taught them to plant corn. Soon more pilgrims arrived and the expansion began.
Christians did not miscegenate like the Conquistadores. As puritans they wanted to keep their blood line pure.
Americans believe that they were destined to inhabit the land and anyone who got in their way was an obstacle and had to be overcome. Several million indians were killed or died within a few years from disease.
- 1776 American Independence from England 1790 census 4 million in 13 colonies.
- 1803 Louisiana purchase from French. 830,000 square miles west of Mississippi .
- 1812 James Madison declares a policy of Manifest Destiny – It was Americas manifest destiny to expand westwards to the Pacific Ocean.
- 1823 Monroe Doctrine – European powers were forbidden intervention into the western hemisphere.
- 1830 The Indian removal act was signed
- 1835-1836 Texas War of Independence Battle of San Jacinto
- 1848 Mexican American War – annexed what is now California, Arizona, New Mexico and part of Colorado
It is true that the first Americans were religious zealots who believed hat God had given them this land. The founding fathers created the bill of rights that assured life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all people. America was built on the premise that all people were created equal and had certain unalienable rights.
The American Dream was created and to this day most Americans enjoy lives of prosperity and opportunity. Americans are independent thinkers that believe in hard work and that prosperity is their birthright.
Ethnologists tell us today Americans today three most important values are:
- Financial success, hard work brings dignity and success brings honor.
- Individual freedom, the pilgrims were very independent minded people. they came here to build their own nation. America has always had a very entrepreneurial spirit
- Education. Americans believe that education provide the opportunity for financial success.
No American has forgotten September 11th, the worst attack by a foreign power on American soil, 2,998 souls were taken and people say that it changed the consciousness of America forever This perhaps this tragedy will help us to understand the impact that Mexico’s history has had on its people and their values.
So what do the Mexican value… lets look at their history.
First of all we must remember that México has been inhabited for 30,000 years. First came the Olmecs, then the Toltecs, the Zapotecs, the Teotiahuecanos, the Mayas, and finally the Aztecs. The Aztecs only came into power 100 years before the conquest, about 1400.AD
At the time Cortés arrived in the Americas in 1528 , he encountered a civilization which numbered about 20 million people and 100 Indian nations, whose economic, social an scientific achievements rivaled any similar advancement in Africa, Asia, or Europe. The Aztecs were skilled artists and craftsmen and were competitive in sports, singing, music, dancing and poetry. There was an abundance of festivals revolving around magnificent floral and graphic displays with costumes , music and dance. Their ruling classes lived in great cities as impressive as the most advanced cities of its day.
Then came the conquistador.
Historians tell us that the Spanish conquistadores were a driven people obsessed with lust for riches and glory for themselves, for Spain, and for the righteousness of their cause. They saw no evil in the death and destruction they inflicted on the people of Mexico, In fact they perceived the Indians as subhuman and over several decades they systematically destroyed the political, economic, and religious foundations of what was a flourishing life for Indians living in Mexico. During the 300 year reign of Spain (1521.1821) some 90% of the Indian population (17 million) was killed directly or by disease brought by Spaniards. They all became slaves working to send Mexico’s resources back to Spain.
After 300 years of slavery came the revolution of 1810 when Mexico gained it´s independence from Spain. The problem for the people was that pretty much the same aristocracy remained in power and most of Mexico’s people were relegated to a life of serfs working the great haciendas. This lasted for another 100 years.
After the revolution of 1810, Mexico’s new leaders had their own problems. Mexico found itself in a state of general anarchy, Its territory was huge, really more than the new government could manage or protect, particularly in the north. Slowly Americans moved into the territory and eventually a land grab occurred that was called the Mexican American War. America annexed what are now the states of California, Arizona, New Mexico, and part of Colorado. In 18.. Texans started their own war for independence, which they won. Americans should remember that many Mexicans are still upset about this.
A few years ago I visited the Museum of Interventions in Mexico city, known as el exconvento Churubusco. In its pamphlet page 7, First paragraph it says: Intervencion norteamericana 1846-1848. In 1848 Mexico lost more than half of its territory at the hand of the United States of America. The reasons? Territorial greed by the United States and the anarchy in Mexico. Now, almost 150 years later we are business associates and this border has become a permanent scare that reminds us of the turbulence of the nineteen century.
Between the revolution of 1810 and the revolution of 1910 Mexico experienced six foreign interventions. Three from United States.
Then came revolution of 1910 to 1921. The revolution of Pancho Villa and Zapata over land. Finally the great haciendas were broken down. Lets keep in mind that this revolution only occurred 84 years ago.
You may wonder why Mexicans are not more bitter and resentful than they are, and how despite such a legacy, the Mexicans are kind, thoughtful, generous, and have an extraordinarily sunny disposition that is expressed in art, literature, music, and song.
I believe that this is because the Spanish overthrow only partially succeeded. You can’t wipe out 30,000 years of civilization in 400 years. It is true that Mexicans went from a nation of relative prosperity and a joyous civilization to a nation of slaves, then serfs, and finally servants. Most people experienced lives of fear, frustration, and sadness for generations. BUT It is important to realize that the Aztecs and other Mexican Indians had a rich philosophical, emotional, and spiritual life, AND despite the destruction of his physical world, what the Mexican hung on to was soul.
In Mexico, “It is generally thought that each person is basically good and decent and that one’s dignity is unaffected by what he does or has. Needless to say, Life has been difficult for generations of people, this 400 years of authoritarian rule and foreign intervention has left its cultural imprint on the psyches and minds of the Mexican people. This powerful imprint is what forms the foundation for Mexican values and social protocol.
So when we consider Mexico’s indigenous history and mix it in with 400 years of authoritarian rule, what do the Mexicans value?
Pride and personal dignity.
When everything else was taken away the only thing the Mexican had control over was his personal pride and dignity. To compensate for their abject poverty and slave-like social statue, Mexicans developed an extraordinary sense of pride. In Mexico, dignity and respect go hand in hand, and Mexicans feel they cannot maintain their dignity without specific, positive respect from others. Mexicans resent the “holier than thou” stance assumed by many Americans. In the face of the Americans perceived arrogance, the Mexicans pride frequently deteriorates into stubbornness and passive-aggressive resistance. Dr. Marc Ehrlich
Americans must remember that there is a feeling among many Mexicans that Americans do not respect them as a nation, as a race or as individuals.
To have strong business ties Americans must learn how to express respect and how to behave socially. Americans should be careful to use respectful language and give a demeanor of courtesy, never talking down to anyone. These personal relationships based on respect are the key to successful long term business.
Mexican courtesy begins with a level of formality that has long since disappeared from other cultures. After the revolution of 1810, it became the practice to educate all people in the Cortesia. The basic courtesies that came from Spain. If a person knew this basic Cortesia, he was considered educated. If he did not, he was considered a “mal-educado”. This was an insult on the mother who was responsible for teaching the courtesies. Suffice it to say that the learning of the courtesies leveled the playing field and became the social glue that brought everyone together on social level. They are based on acknowledging a person when entering his space. They consist of:
- The formal greetings and farewells
- Asking permission when entering or leaving someone’s space.
- A blessing on the meal when entering some ones space.
The courtesies gave all people a way expressing respect and of maintaining pride and personal dignity.
American should know and use these courtesies if they live or work in Mexico.
From the beginning U.S. business relationships have generally been based on accepted practices and laws. Not so much in Mexico. Historically, the only protection Mexican business people have had is the personal bonds that have been established between them.
In most cases, for a business relationship to succeed, it must be based more on trust than on a contract. It is true that the modern Mexican Executive places trust in a well written contract, but when things go wrong, any business success must be based on personal confidence not on laws.
The greatest challenge facing foreigners who want to do business in Mexico is finding the right people and then developing mutual trust. This trust cannot be developed in one or two meetings. It takes time.
It should be understood that the first stages of business relationship, Mexicans are looking at the personality, character, and manners of the foreign representative. Friendship and trust is important. If a deal is reached without this required personal foundation, it will usually fall apart during the first several years of operation or at best go forward but usually it will proceed at a slow pace.
The important thing is that once this trust is developed problems can be solved easily, quickly, and completely with the help of Mexican friends. Personal contacts in the right places continue to be the way things get done efficiently. This brings us to
Family and Friends
Personal interaction, not laws, is the basis of business in Mexico and the foundation of Mexican society. Laws were originally created to protect the powerful, not systems of right and wrong, but by arbitrary policies established to protect the ruling elite. Until recent history all activity, social and economical and political, was based on personal relationships, on who one knew and how much influence could be brought to bear. Mexico became a system of personal patronage. Survival was based on ones ability of network with family members and friends.
Today Mexico is a powerful country going through rapid change. The old politics with political experience and connections is becoming the new politics of bureaucrats who have built political careers through bureaucracy and accomplishments at school.
However, even today trust and personal friendships play an extremely important role in the development and maintenance of good business relationships.
In a perfect world the parties involved in the relationship from different nations, would be sensitive and knowledgeable of the other party´s culture and traditional ways of life. Why is cultural understanding so important, because it reduces the incidence of conflict and gives a basis for resolution when it occurs.
We live in a dynamic universe and in business things go wrong, so wrong that the individuals cannot come to resolution alone. That is when they need help.
We have come here today to discuss ways and to develop skills to help individuals, businesses and institutions resolve conflicts in efficient and responsible ways. Through this information and these skills we will be able to help our clients save money, save time, and experience less stress.
We will all agree that mediation is the practical way to resolve conflict, But I believe that mediation is not only practical, it is also spiritual.
It is the path of the peacemaker. Gandhi said: “When you have resolved conflict you have opened the door to peace.” Never in the history of our planet has peace been more important.
Recently a local healer named Jesus spoke at our school. Someone asked… How can we heal the planet… How can we have peace on earth?
He said that the way was to heal yourself and then heal those in your immediate circle. That is all anyone can do. The mediator is the peacemaker and your clients are your immediate circle. When you help your clients see another’s side and open their hearts, then there are great possibilities for resolution and for peace.
I believe the path of the mediator is the path of the spiritual warrior…. like St. Michael.. The patron saint of our city…
A few months ago a great Peruvian shaman named Juan Ruiz spoke at our school. He said that when he was meditating that morning, he saw San Miguel. Not only did he see San Miguel, he saw legions of archangels.
He said that the San Miguel he saw looks different than the one in the Parroquia. This one didn´t have a sword and shield. He walked with his arms open and his heart was open. He said that this was a new era in the history of the world and that this is the time of the open hearted warriors.
A good mediator helps others to see another’s position and open their hearts to possibilities for resolution. This is the beginning of peace.
Mediation is practical.. it helps our clients save time and money and it is spiritual. It helps our clients reach peaceful solutions and opens the door to peaceful hearts. It creates a win, win, win situation. You are here to become the practical warriors for peace.
The dali lama says that: The path to nonviolence is the path of service to our fellow beings. We honor what you are doing and we support you in it.
We want you to enjoy your selves, and learn from each other. Much energy has been used by people with vision, talent, and good hearts to bring us together. Let us create the union between our groups that will serve many. I hope you to feel proud because you are taking the legal high road in service to your clients and to humanity.
It is a day for celebration and we my wife Tuli and I, welcome you here. Nuestra Casa es su Casa Our mission is uniting people through language and culture y estamos aqui para servirles.