Mexico, Culture and Medical Traditions
Out of all the countries, Mexico is the 11th most populated country with 124,574,795 people as of July 2017. Mexico is a multiethnic nation; with their largest ethnic group being mestizo which accounts for 62% of their population. After that their ethnic groups are as follows: predominantly Amerindian 21%, Amerindian 7%, other 10% (mostly European). The languages they speak are varied as well, 92.7% speak Spanish only, 5.7% speak Spanish and indigenous languages, 0.8% speak indigenous only, and 0.8% unspecified. Mexico’s major religion is roman catholic at 82.7% of their population. The rest of their religion they classify as are: Pentecostal 1.6%, Jehovah’s Witness 1.4%, other Evangelical Churches 5%, other 1.9%, none 4.7%, unspecified 2.7% (“The World Factbook: MEXICO,” 2018). My question is how do all these factors affect us in the medical field as a whole, in caring for patients of this culture? How exactly can we help patients of this culture in their treatment and there comfort in healthcare? The research in this paper will delve into all aspects of the culture of Mexicans, there food preferences, their religion, their traditional treatment of illnesses, and their family dynamics.
Keywords: Mexicans, culture, healthcare, religion, customs, tradition, food preferences
Mexican Food Habits
I chose to write about Mexican culture because where I work now I interact with people who are Mexican often. I sometimes learn about the different things they do in their culture to heal their illnesses, and I want to learn more about their way of life. In this research, I hope to understand a little more about their personal and traditional culture, and how people of Mexican culture relate to healthcare. Mexican food typically consists of things like: tortillas, beans, rice, chilies, salsas, corn, full-fat milk, and cheeses. This high carbohydrate and high caloric intake can contribute to many factors, one of those being obesity. Mexico has one of the highest youth obesity rates, > 34% of children and adolescents between 5-19 years of age are overweight or obese.
Apart from food habits, children in the Mexican culture have shown consumption of carbonated drinks and sweetened beverages have increased 226% between the years 1999-2006. Excess body fat in children can lead to multiple clinical conditions like fatty liver disease, sleep apnea, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance, and hypercholesterolemia (Aceves-Martins, Llaurado, & Giralt, 2016).
Traditional Healthcare and Women’s Health
According to the World Health Organization, diabetes is the leading cause of death in Mexico. I read an article that considered type 2 diabetes as a lifestyle disease because of the people that develop it. Due to the eating habits of the Mexican culture, it has been a growing issue in the past years. One of the big contributors in the management of type 2 diabetes is diet, and in a culture where food is heavily loaded with carbohydrates, this could be a huge factor in the management of this disease. In Mexican culture, they have many beliefs when it comes to their healthcare and healing beliefs. One example is Curanderismo, which encourages the use of plant-based medicines, like aloe vera, cumin, sage, and rue.
This can become a conflict in healthcare possibly when a medication is being prescribed and perhaps the patient either doesn’t want it or doesn’t tell the doctor that they are taking these other herbs that could conflict with the medication. Another healthcare belief the Mexican culture has is that the women are not allowed to use birth control in the Catholic religion, which as we discussed earlier that is the main religion of Mexico. A large family and many children are viewed as a blessing, and the number of children a woman has develops the women’s status. Many Mexican women view pregnancy as a “normal” condition which does not require the assistance of a physician. The elder women in the family will provide support and guidance and prenatal care is avoided. It is believed that when a woman is pregnant she should avoid all things that are “death related’, so she cannot attend things like funerals, or burials, and even visiting cemeteries.
Another thing that is believed by the Mexican culture is that pregnant women should avoid exposure to sun or stand near fire. It is believed that in doing so the excess heat could burn the placenta or heat the baby and irritate the fetus.
Role of Family, Machismo and Marianismo
A big key role in Mexican culture is machismo and marianismo. It describes the roles for males and females. This refers to the man to have a strong work ethic, be a good provider, and a protector of his family. In this role, men are expected to behave in ways that are considered to be masculine or macho. According to the CDC, if they are “True to these values, men are often reluctant to consult physicians for health problems until someone is so ill that a visit to an emergency room is needed. Fathers or husbands may make other family members, especially their wives and daughters, wait until the last minute to obtain care or may take an uncooperative stance on the healthcare needs of family members.” For this culture, family or familismo is where loyalty to one’s extended family is more important than the needs of the one person. So, this can be difficult when a solo patient needs to make independent decisions.
According to Caballero (2011), an example of this being difficult in a situation is where a patient may feel like they need to talk treatment options, like taking certain medications or making lifestyle modifications, with their family members before making a decision on it.
Given all the research and examples of the Mexican culture that could affect health care; it is imperative that we understand a patients culture/lifestyle. In this field, we cannot have cultural blindness when it comes to treating and caring for our patients. We need to understand and know the different cultural influences on health care like: physiologic variations, reactions to pain, mental health, gender roles, language, food and nutrition, family support, and even socioeconomic factors. Understanding these factors affect physical health and being sensitive and aware of these different factors can make a significant difference in health outcomes.
- The world factbook: MEXICO. (2018, September 26). Retrieved from https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/mx.html Aceves-Martins, M.,
- Llaurado, E., Sola, R., & Giralt, M. (2016). Obesity-promoting factors in Mexican children and adolescents: Challenges and opportunities. Global Health Action, 9(1). doi:10.3402/gha.v9.29625
- Caballero, A. E., MD. (2011). Understanding the Hispanic/Latino Patient. The American Journal Of Medicine, 124(10), S10-S15.