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Age, personal record and generation relations on the peninsula of Yucatán, Mexico


Institute for Latin American Studies

Problems of cross-generational relations appears in the context of globalization and rapid social and cultural change. Increasing mobility, rapid technical innovation, changing consumer needs, and individualizing processes challenge traditional forms of social, religious, political and economical organization and place cultural standards/values and social roles in question. While in pre-industrial societies the wisdom of “older people” was highly regarded, it has been rapidly devalued by the increasing social and economic relevance of the “youngsters”. Generational differences are evident in the evaluation of behavior standards, agricultural techniques, agricultural politics, religion, the use of the Maya language, future and life perceptions, gender relations, etc. Many older people deplore the loss of language skills and the knowledge of traditional cultivation methods, which they understand to be coupled to religious conceptions. Even in the countryside it is no longer a goal for young men to become farmers. The differences in the self-conception of the generations also manifest themselves externally (clothes, hair-styles) and become clear among other things in musical taste. The law of succession, for example, of land, having long served as a regulating mechanism to secure the authority of the “older people” in household and family, is losing importance. How can one shape the social security systems between generations in a time characterized the younger generation's increasing mobility of youngsters and thus increasingly large distance from the parental household? Are family authority structures changing and are the “generation contracts” of social security increasingly dissolving?

At the same time, the indigenous population has been developing an ethnic discourse, discovering their “tradition”, the awareness of their social and cultural capital and promoting it through a variety of projects, including the development of national places, and with the support of international organizations and non-governmental organizations. The younger generation of political leaders among the indigenous have been presenting themselves in the Indian discourse as representatives of this knowledge and presenting the “knowledge of older people”, often in more pure and orthodox manner.  This is increased inter-generational tension and raised the question of whether the interpretation and use of be shared among all generation groups?

The research project is not only about analyses of enculturation and socialization processes, including the mediation of traditional knowledge, educating standards and language skills in a family and outer-family context. The question is also one of the relationship between generations (grandchildren, children, people of the same age, parents, grandparents and if necessary great-grandparents) and is to be seen in the context of larger transformation processes and political discourses among the indigenous. The analysis of gender relations and inter-family authority conditions play a central role.