Americans often travel to other parts of the world to explore the culture of the country in which they adventure to. However, these trips not only immerse the visitor in a new culture, but they also reveal the individuals own culture. The culture he or she was raised in is what makes him or her who they are today. "A Lesson Learned in Mexico" is a piece of literature written about an event the author, Jessica Wann, experienced in her own life. Through comparing the Mexican culture and Alices identity with that of Jessica, it can be determined that Jessicas identity is one that stereotypes people and has trouble seeing past those brands, only trusts written contracts, and does not challenge authority.
Alice and Jessica both stereotype people and use those labels to deal with a particular situation. In dealing with the hotel security guard, "Alice was infuriated" (Wann, 1) because "someone on the hotel staff had broken into [her] room earlier that week and took $400 US dollars from her" (1). Alice had never had a conflict with this particular hotel staff member. However, because of her experience with another staff member, earlier that week, she decides that they were all the same. Alice "was already very angry with the hotel, and was not about to let them mess with her again" (1). Alice uses what had happened earlier in the week to guide her behavior in this new situation. Similarly, Jessica responds to the same security guard by thinking on the past week and the way other Mexican men had been treating her. The guard "reached out to touch [Jessicas] arm" (2) to calm her down. As he tried to grab her arm, she "quickly backed away" (2) because she "had been unwantingly touched by Mexican men all week" (2). The hotel security guard was not trying to touch her in an inappropriate manner because he was attracted to her; he was merely trying to help control her anger. However, Jessica took the action as inappropriate because of the way she had been treated by Mexican men all week; she was stereotyping the intentions of all Mexican men. The fact that both Alice and Jessica use previous events to guide their behavior in this new situation implies that Americans all have the tendency to do the same.
Another way in which Americans are alike, yet different from Mexicans, is the way in which they only put their trust in written contracts, as opposed to spoken words. Jessica and her group do not believe the policy of having no visitors in the hotel because "none of [them] had signed any sort of contract saying [they] knew the rules of the hotel and that [they] agreed to abide by them" (2). They do not want to listen to the security guard because they have never seen the rule in writing. However, the hotel security guard believes they should abide by the spoken rule. In the American culture, one puts their trust in written contracts; they read the fine print, and their only proof of agreement is their signature. Yet in the Mexican culture, spoken "contracts" are just as important as those written and signed.
Americans are similar in the way they stereotype people and trust written contracts, yet they are different in their policy regarding authority. In dealing with the security guard, Alice does not offer him any respect. However, Jessica believes that he should not be challenged because he is an authority figure. Alice argues with the guard and yells at him throughout the whole ordeal. The culture, in which she was raised, does not emphasize the importance of respecting authority. Jessica had learned that authority figures deserve her respect and should not be challenged. She had "heard stories about the Mexican police" (2); she knew that her group does not "want to get involved with them" (2-3). Jessica works on calming her friends, particularly Alice, down in order that they not upset the security guard. He is their authority figure and deserves their respect. However, Alice and a few others do not understand this concept because their cultures do not value the quality of not challenging authority. Alice had been taught to stick up for her beliefs to everyone, no matter who they were. This is one aspect in which Jessica has a unique identity from that of Alice.
In comparing the Mexican culture and Alices identity with Jessica, it can be determined, through the event in "A Lesson Learned in Mexico," that Jessica is an individual who stereotypes situations based on past experiences, trusts only written contracts, and respects authority figures. Based on the fact that both Alice and Jessica use past events to handle new situations and rely only on written contracts, it can be implied that these qualities are similar to those of all Americans. Alice and Jessica were raised in very different cultures; that is why this assumption can be made. It can also be determined that Jessicas identity is unique based on the idea that authority should not be challenged. Alice does not possess this same value; therefore, it cannot be assumed that all Americans own this feature. When all of Jessicas characteristics are taken into consideration, her identity is distinctive. She has become whom she is by the culture in which she was raised and past events that have come to define her.
Wann, Jessica. "A Lesson Learned in Mexico." Tacoma, Washington: English 101. 27 March 2000.