It came upon my wife and me slowly at first, and then, once we noticed it, it was almost impossible to ignore.
As just one example of what we saw, when we visited middle-to-upper end destinations in Mexico, we started to notice that bands of young women seemed to be everywhere. We would see them in groups of eight to 10, going to restaurants. They were dressed nicely, very well groomed, fresh-faced and presentable. It was not unusual, about an hour or two into their meal, that they would start group singing. From what we could see, they were high-spirited, supported each other, and had lots of friends.
This was quite a bit different from what we saw in the US. The simplest way to say it is that the young Mexican women seem to be in a much better place overall than the young women in the US. Judging even just by their appearance, demeanor, and posture, young Mexican women were more confident and well-balanced than the young women in the US.
I’ve developed some theories as to why that is but first, let’s set the stage with some demographics, provided by WorlData.info:
Median age in years: 29.3
Life expectancy: 75.1 years
Median age in years: 43.6
Life expectancy: 78.9 years
This tells us that the average person in Mexico is more than 13 years younger than the average person in the US, with a life expectancy less than four years different. Think about how a place with a much younger population would tend to order life and culture compared to a place with an older population. Which place would be more optimistic and forward-looking? And which place would tend to be better for younger people?
On a personal level, we have been fortunate enough to come into close contact with two young Mexican women.
Señorita One (25 years old) works with me at Best Mexico Movers, my business moving people to and from Mexico. I hired her a few years ago, as an intern while she
was finishing her international business degree. By the time I hired her, she had already spent six months as a student abroad in an English-speaking country. Her English was close to perfect, and I couldn’t help but notice that her pre-college education must have been much better than mine (I was a product of the Los Angeles Unified school district, after all), given her grounding in all sorts of subjects (including English grammar) with which I had only a hazy, distant relationship in high school. Señorita One is poised, well-spoken, and able to communicate with much older, somewhat hardened men like me with no problem whatsoever. She is also able to speak with our clients (85% of whom speak only English), our vendors (half in English and half in Spanish), truck drivers (80% Spanish-only, even in the US), and others with equal calm, confidence, and effectiveness. Even though she is only 25, she effectively runs almost our entire logistics operations, managing more than 20 moves at the same time.
Señorita Two (21 years old) is helping my wife with the technical aspects of our quite
extensive home remodel. After visiting to take measurements and translating my wife’s vision into blueprints, elevation drawings and detailed documents, Señorita Two contacted Mexican contractors and solicited bids, which she conducted in Spanish and translated for my wife and me. Along the way, she did video conference calls with the contractors who sought the work and with us. Señorita Two is always positive, polite, socially competent and sure-footed, mature, and adept. She manages the work progress daily, mediates potential and actual conflicts, gives overall direction, reports back to my wife and me regularly and lets me know when I should pay for work done. Once again, she just turned 21.
Regarding the culture in Mexico, in the event you have the wrong opinion, I need to point out that, with regard to how these two young women are treated by older, male Mexicans in Mexico, neither Señorita One (who works with truck drivers, customs officials and business owners) nor Señorita Two (who works with building contractors, government officials and day workers) has any problem whatsoever being effective working with middle-aged, sometimes pretty rough Mexican men. Neither the fact that they are women, nor the fact that they are young has been a hinderance to them in any
way, from what I can tell and from what they report. Both are treated with respect and deference to their authority over much older males by these same much older males. They are not hindered by being female or by being young in any sense, real or imaginary.
I should also mention that, while these young women do not come from poor families, they do not come from a life of leisure, either, where everything is handed to them. Theirs has been a life of having to work very hard for what they have achieved, for which they can take personal pride. Happily, judging from my admittedly small sample bias, in Mexico the same types of opportunities are available to families with much fewer resources, including our housekeeper, whose daughter was fluent in English and being educated for a profession, just like Señorita One and Señorita Two.
What accounts for the differences in outcome between the young women in Mexico as
compared with the young women in the US? Although young women in Mexico share lots of similarities with young women in the US, here are differences in a few of the inputs:
- Young women in Mexico tend to live in three-generation homes, with grandpa and grandma either living very close by or in the same home. This, in addition to the stronger family values and stronger family ties in Mexico, helps to give young women in Mexico a rootedness that not available to many young women in the US.
- Young women in Mexico tend to listen to and respect their elders much more than in the US. Señorita One and Señorita Two constantly ask for the opinions of older people and draw heavily upon their advice and expertise. On a broader level, I was essentially shocked when first coming here to Mexico that young people were interested in what I had to say at all. This was not my experience
in the US, even when I was a guest lecturer at the graduate business program at the University of Arizona, where, supposedly, students paid to hear what I had to say (or at least their parents did). Young Mexican women are not world-weary or cynical, like so many young women in the US. They don’t believe that they already know everything worth knowing, and as a result, young women in Mexico are more curious and more interested and, as a side benefit, they’re much more enjoyable to be around and to collaborate with. As I mentioned in the bullet above, they are still rooted, which gives them perspective, assuredness, and a very strong foundation that so many young women in the US do not have.
I hesitated to include the next group of differences because of the overheated and
divisive politics in the US, which in part, is the point—that politics is not as overheated and divisive for young Mexican people as it is for young people in the US. You may feel that the next group of differences is something that the young women in Mexico need to be more concerned about than they are, or alternatively, you may be happy they are not as concerned about than their US counterparts. My purpose
in mentioning them is just to be descriptive as each relates to happiness, optimism, and prospects for future success, without regard to whether any of them are right or wrong.
- Young Mexican women not as concerned with issues of class, race, oppressor / oppressed, gender, victimhood, etc., as are young women in the US. From what I can see, the universities in Mexico and the culture are more concerned with teaching their students how to be doctors, lawyers, engineers, architects, etc., than they are in teaching social issues or even what we would call “general education.” That’s one of the reasons why you can see a fully trained doctor in Mexico when he or she is several years younger than you would see a fully
trained doctor in the US—Mexican universities don’t spend as much time teaching anything that is not pertinent to the student’s profession. And that’s why Señorita Two is so competent, poised and knowledgeable at an age that, if she were in the US, she would just be deciding on her major. Instead of having to take these other classes, she was studying subjects such as acoustic muffling and competing in sponsored competitions to design a lobby where the prize was a trip to Spain.
- Young women in Mexico are not as concerned as young women in the US that they will soon die from Climate Change, overpopulation or some other impending “existential threat.” If you were an American young woman, how would you feel about your prospects, if you were told, taught and believed that there essentially isn’t any future for you, because of all these terrible things which are going to happen in your lifetime that horribly impact and doom your prospects? Would you be optimistic? Would you be happy? This is one of the
- reasons given for the lower birth rate in the US. Young women in Mexico aren’t as impacted by this, because, compared to the US, these issues are not as central to their worldview. Mexican culture and education just lets them be young adults.
The young women at those restaurants and in other places in Mexico that my wife and I saw who were singing with their friends generally believe that their future is bright and that they have a lot to look forward to. I think they’re right.