We love a cultural giving lesson and giving in Latin America is close to our hearts. We have family members who live in Latin America and others who have lived in Latin America. Both loved where they lived and especially loved what they learned from their neighbours and friends. Latin American cultures are truly about giving, and our family members learned this first hand. Unfortunately the media loves to highlight the economic and migration culture of Latin American countries instead of the beautiful social culture. Well I asked my family about the giving culture in Latin America based on their experience, and they were more than happy to share what they knew, what they experienced first hand and had researched.
In Ecuador the saying that best expresses our lives and how we should live is ‘Buen Vivir’, an indigenous belief passed through generations that means to Live Well. But what does living well mean? Living well is based on the values of cooperation, harmony, shared responsibility, accountability, and a collective society. Basically we are all responsible for our wellbeing and the wellbeing of our communities and countries. Giving is a large part of this when it comes to day to day interactions and community management. Wellbeing is not measured by an economic measurement, it is all about measuring the psychological health of people and communities. That right there sets Latin America apart from North America.
Giving between family members, generations and giving to elders is a large part of the Latin American giving culture. Grandchildren give time to their grandparents. Parents give time to their children. Children help around the house without asking. Houses are intergenerational with each giving to each other. During COVID as schools locked down for longer periods of time than other countries, learning has become a household endeavor. Grandparents and parents took on the role of teacher. This giving culture continued during lock down and in many countries remains the norm.
Big business has not treated the environment well in Central and South America. That is a known fact. But community concern for the environment is well known in Latin American countries. Recycling was happening way before other countries, protests to protect forests, oceans and rivers have been a large part of community gives. Children are taught to honor and respect the environment through their education system, family activities and community education. Planet gives happen often, and children love their natural environment. On any given day my family members have seen hand painted signs, murals and artwork that shares environmental messages for all to see.
Communities and families share. These people gives are critically important to communities and neighbourhoods. People share what they can with family members, neighbours and community members. If someone needs a blanket, or food, or school supplies, people give what they can. COVID has magnified sharing and put a spotlight on the natural instinct to share as there were few economic safety nets.
My sister volunteered at the local senior’s community center and witnessed first hand the culture of helping in Latin America. Volunteers were in abundance at the center, of all ages, donations of clothing and food were brought to the center on a daily basis from local businesses and families. When something needed to be fixed, a local plumber would show up and volunteer their services. The seniors who used the center made sure they helped to clean, garden and cook for others at the center. Classes were held by other seniors who had a skill or craft others wished to learn. It was a society of helping when help was needed, and reciprocity fueled the center day after day. It was an amazing machine that kept seniors engaged, purposeful and members of the community. It was a beautiful and seamless act of kindness and giving every single day.
Part of the Latin American culture is ‘I see you’. What that means is, everyone says Good Morning or Good Afternoon when you pass them. People hand out smiles everywhere you go. These are not people that know you, nor do you know them, but acknowledging people as you walk by is considered normal and part of how you interact with your community. It is a wonderful, effortless give that makes everyone feel happier, as they have been seen! This is in contrast to other cultures where we dont acknowledge each other at all. Smiles are few and a good morning even less. I love that people use this simple give every day!
Latin American culture is complex, and its cultural history one to be studied. Experiencing reciprocity when you are living or traveling within Latin American will warm your heart. Seeing people give in the smallest but most impactful ways just proves that giving is easy, simple and important. Do you have any cultural gives you would like to share? Have you witnessed cultural gives that are deeply part of a culture? Let us know.
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