Sunday, July 25, 2010

Felicidad- Happiness

Working in sugar cane fields in Nayarit, Mexico

Gaelyn wrote a comment on the last post about her observations when she visited Mexico.

"Rich indeed! Every where I traveled in Mexico the people were so much richer than most Americans, strong family, gorgeous surroundings, happy and full of life..."

I was talking to one of our physicians at the hospital about my trip to Mexico. He had worked in the southern part of the country in the past and I asked him if that particular area was poor. His impression was similar to Gaelyn's and he said that while the people did not have many material possessions, they had all they needed for health and happiness.

Fatima and her new puppy

The University of Michigan's World Values Surveys (WVS) has compiled data on the happiest countries in the world for over twenty years. Their results are considered the most authoritative by happiness researchers. (source)

The winners were
1. Nigeria
2. Mexico
3. Venezuela
4. El Salvador
5. Puerto Rico
with Canada at #10 and America at #15.

Other studies have shown that the happiest people surround themselves with family and friends, don't care about accumulating material goods, find pleasure in their daily activities and forgive easily. Mexico has economic, security, social and political challenges but many people I met, while poor by our standards, were content and happy.

There were incidents of drug-related violence in the city of Tepic recently and police and army checkpoints were set up along the roadways. Thousands of killings have been reported in Mexico since President Felipe Calderón came into power in 2006 and began an anti-drug campaign against cartels which traffic illegal drugs into America. Most of the victims are members of organized crime groups who are fighting for control of trafficking routes. Police, members of the judiciary and journalists have also been targeted. I generally avoided eye contact and photographs in patrolled areas, but the policeman above posed proudly for me as my dad purchased pineapples from the back of a pick up truck in the village. Life goes on as usual for the average citizen and I sensed little anxiety or fear on the streets.

Tortilleria in San Pedro, Coahuila

My daughter buys tortillas at this little business near her home. It was hot outside and even hotter inside the small structure. Most people I know in Canada would complain about working in these conditions. Visiting a poorer nation (not just a tourist resort) always makes me appreciate the exceptional standard of living I enjoy and helps me value the non-material sources of happiness in my everyday life.

Toddler in the village of San Luis de Lozada

Many Mexicans long for the "American" lifestyle and relentless messages in popular media are influencing younger generations to value material things more than ever before. I hope this little girl grows up to value the traditional aspects of her culture which cannot be traded for money and wealth.


  1. It is rather sad that here in the US, happiness is equated with "having" and "power" when truly it fully comes from within. So many nations, as you pointed out Ruth, are much richer for not having these goals to attain.

  2. I note the sugar cane there is the same as thise in Australia, not big one found in Borneo.

    The more material things we have, the more we want, and the more we want, the more unhappy we are. Is that true?

  3. Contentment, joy, peace ... valuable beyond measure.

  4. We who have so much in the worldly goods are the ones who complain the most.What a shame.

  5. It is So true that the "things" in life are not what can make one truly happy. It's all about attitude and being surrounded by the people you love. I'd like to return to this RICH country again soon.

  6. The "happiest" list is interesting but not too surprising. Family and cultural identity bring satisfaction that money cannot buy.

  7. I have enjoyed your Mexico posts, but none so much as this one. A wonderful lesson there for all of us.


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