01 November 2008


This weekend holds the Dia de Muertos, a cultural tradition commemorated in México and throughout Latin America. 


Dia de Muertos is a Latin American tradition that pre-dates the first arrival of the Spanish to the Americas.  Some anthropologists suggest the tradition is hundreds, if not thousands, of years old.  For many Mayan of the Yucatan, this Dia de Muertos weekend will be an annual occasion to take the bones of ancestors out of their crypts, to sweep the past year’s collection of dust out of the boxes and off of the bones, and to lay new cloth in the old bone boxes before returning the bones to the boxes and the boxes back to the crypts.  This Mayan ritual, as with Dia de Muertos commemorations in general, is enacted in large part as a sign of respect for and connexion to the past. 


Of course, ancestor worship is not solely a Latin American cultural phenomenon.  It is also an old and important cultural tradition still practiced throughout Asia (albeit, practiced at different times of the year).


Culture can be a complicated subject to discuss.  For culture is not simply things that humans look at as we walk past altars on display in Zocalos, or an activity we observe performed on theatrical stages, or objects which we view in art galleries, or even images that we fleetingly glimpse at out of the windows of tour buses we may travel on throughout foreign and exotic lands. 


Culture is primarily about identity.  In large measure, the culture(s) that human beings are part of help define our very essence as individual human beings. 


There are continental cultures. These are ones where people identify at one level as an inhabitant and member of a specific continent and that continent’s geographic community.  Continental cultural identities include a person identifying as South American or Australian or African or Asian or American or European. 


There are national cultures, ones where people identify as a member of a specific country and its geographic territory. These can include Ethiopian, Nepalese, Tahitian, Lao, Lithuanian, Paraguayan, or any one of the 195 countries currently counted on Earth.


There are also indigenous cultures, ones where the people who inhabit a defined geographic area have the earliest historic connexion to that area (whether this historic connexion is through birth or migration). Indigenous cultures include the Ahousat people of Vancouver Island, Canada, the Huaorani peoples of the Amazon, the Chontal of Tabasco, México, the Maori peoples of New Zealand, the Kuna peoples of Panama, the Tau peoples of Taiwan, and the Inuit of the USA and Canada Arctic, amongst almost countless other indigenous peoples across Earth. 


Even peoples like the English, French, Welsh, Germans, Italians, Belgians, Norwegians, Russians and other European identities can be called indigenous cultures.  That is because while they each represent a national culture, they are also peoples with the earliest historic connexion to their geographic area.


It is at the indigenous level where culture takes on some of its deepest meanings for human beings, as it is at this level that culture then includes things that impact us humans in our daily lives.  Indigenous cultures touch on things like: communication methods (whether verbal or non-verbal languages); the clothing and jewellery we wear; the food we eat; the eating utensils we use (whether chopsticks, our hands, or knives & forks & spoons); religious beliefs; social rituals and customs (including things like body markings, social hierarchies and social mobility, ancestor worship, and warrior societies), governance styles and approaches, urban development and building styles, economic development patterns, and much, much more.


For a country like the USA, the more would entail the cultural implication found in the famous quote of Calvin Coolidge, the 30th President of the United States, who said that “The business of America is business.”  In other words, Coolidge said that, at the indigenous level of the newcomers to the New World’s USA, the American cultural identity is one that is connected to business activity.


So you may ask:  What does this discussion mean for Sustainable Development?


Well, human cultures – human societies – on Earth are widely spread out and richly diverse in many, even countless, ways.


And Sustainable Development acknowledges that, for its successful advancement, it must take in to account local dynamics, local differences, and local realities in each of the social, environmental and economic spheres. Culture, including cultural differences, would come under the social aspect of Sustainable Development.


So if human beings can find real, tangible (i.e. solid), ways for living with and alongside our species’ cultural diversity, we would then be in a better position to advance the social component of Sustainable Development. 


Social advancement in Sustainable Development would then place humans in a better position to achieve one of the stated Aims in the Preamble of the Charter of the United Nations, that being:


“to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours.”


I personally believe that one of the best ways for humans to achieve a common place, one where we daily live with and alongside cultural diversity, is by our learning to accept, embrace, support and even celebrate cultural diversity and cultural differences.  


The “one size fits all” approach to cultural identity (which is a more traditionally nationalistic approach) seems not only contrary to sustainable development, it also seems to me to be unrealistic and even undesirable.


Human life becomes eminently more alive and joyful when the Maltese of Malta can be Maltese and the Flemish of Belgium can be Flemish and the Chamula of Chiapas, México can be the Chamula and the Gitskan of Canada can be the Gitskan. And when each and every other cultural identity is fully welcomed and encouraged to be its own cultural self (no matter how any other cultural identity may collectively choose to define its sense of cultural self). 


In one simple sense, all that is required for humans to accept, embrace, support and celebrate cultural diversity is for us to come from an initial place of respect within our own individual selves.  Then from that personal, individual, place of respect what we next need to develop is an understood and agreed respect for other selves… no matter how different or strange any other self may appear to us.  For remember, normal to us can often be strange to another.  And strange to us can often be normal to another.  So if all human beings grounded ourselves in mutual respect, then even the seemingly strange to us can be celebrated for its normalcy to others.


So here’s the question: 



If you were to develop a Sustainability Strategy for your city (municipality), what “specific” goals & objectives would you develop and implement to ensure that cultural diversity was encouraged, accepted, embraced, supported and celebrated in your city?




  1. The indigenous culture, traditions, customes and the languajes are part of the big cultural heritage of each country and differ the countries.
    Latin America has a big cultural legacy that is made up for the different ethnic groups in america.
    latin america is rich in the cultural aspects ,but the culture has had a big impact and whit the time the ethnic groups are less, we lost the cultural heritage.
    to have a sustainable development of the culture we shoul respect the cultural diversity and take care about the different groups and take actions to conserve this legacy that difference and enriches each country, with a big quantity of traditions, languajes, mains of life, etc..

  2. In the case of today’s Cancun, I would demolish the little school that lays behind the Palapas park and replace it with a Mayan Culture Conservatory, where we could place a significant effort toward teaching Mayan language, compiling bilingual dictionaries between Mayan and other languages, translate literature to and from Mayan and hear concerts in Mayan. This conservatory could also become the center toward the monitoring of the Mayan wellbeing in Quintana Roo and a Mayan Heritage Museum, something sorely lacking in Cancun.
    Perhaps a Mayan radio station could be attainable, too. And that’s with or without the Conservatory: a small office building with a small FM trasmitter and a 60 mile range. If it could work along the consevatory, or even better, from inside the conservatory, it’s impact could be undeniable.

  3. Mexico is one of the countries that possesses a great cultural diversity since each of the states has different customs and celebrations, but even like that we join to commemorate the most important facts. The culture that we have has been acquired by us of our forbears and it is in our hands it to transmit to future generations.For example in the communities of Felipe Carillo Puerto and x-pichil the radio is transmitted by the Mayan language, in order which the tourists could know more on the culture, as well as in x-pichil it leads the different tourists to knowing to that they dedicate the families, since for example a visit is given them to the community and the rituals and the crafts are showed them to hand that they realize, more than anything I believe that the direct treatment with community might achieve this balance sustainable

  4. Well, I think Mexico is a multicultural country, and we need to do it is not focus on other langages if don’t know ours. I think first, shoul learn in primary school the mayan language (in case of Yucatan peninsula) than inglish or something else. This will keep part of our culture alive.

    Secondly we must have a place where we can go and check out the history, the traditions, customs gastronomy, like a museum, but where we can also get involve with indigenous culture and learn from them all we can.

  5. Like we know Mexico is a country full of culture, with different celebration and customs and I think that the action we have to take is to transmite all of this to the next generation.

    I think that one thing we can add in Cancun is the mayan language because we do not know a lot of that and an maybe we can put it into part of the education in the school and have more oportunities to us it.

  6. Well, I think I should do many things, but first, I’d like to establish an extra subject in the elementary school, one that teach about the Culture Indigenous of the each city and of course the mine. I think it could help to the children learn about their origin and their history, and I think it’s a good way because while the children grow up they won´t see the indigenous as something bad even they will respect them. I think this could be a good start.

    The first thing we have to do to respect other culture (here of the other country)is get information to know that all the cultures have the same importance as our.

  7. The culture is the story of an entire people or nation thus defining their own characteristics give us an identity which distinguishes us from any other. in Mexico we are very lucky to have a great cultural wealth and feel that the eyes of the world have specific and unique characteristics that make us relevant, we have a wide range of traditions and customs in which the majority of Mexicans participated with the heart and above all with a lot of faith.
    But now we are in an accelerated process of interaction with tourists who visit us from all over the world and this will have a great loss of values, what makes slowly make our way to one side of life imitating to tourists who arrive with ideas and lifestyles very different, which puts us at a disadvantage that besides losing a tourist attraction as valuable as it is the culture also lost part of who we are and distinguishes us as Mexicans, is This is needed concience of what we are doing and really appreciate even more all the wealth we have. In my view, could form groups at universities (perhaps) and visit some communities close to our people and talk with residents to create awareness of how valuable it is their way of life, such as the conservation of the Mayan language, their clothing, the so-called Hanal pixan (dia de muertos) and so on.
    similarly spread elsewhere and to me it seemed very interesting proposal from the Oscar and implement in schools in kinder garden activities where children participate in some traditions, and thus enjoying its culture as well as to participate at other ages .

  8. Culturally talking If I had the opportunity to put goals for the development of my community I would Invest on the cultural actions on the city like theaters, art schools, normal schools, etc. to Make that the government invest on the carnavals maybe and also encourage the people to participate and make it bigger an recognized in any part of the world as the brazilian carnaval.

    I would implement a plan for the urban development in the city, because many streets and avenues are very damaged and maybe this would encourage the people to cooperate with the authorities in order to make better the urbanization of the city.

    I would put some laws about the ecotourism because the agencys just esplot the people from the rural places to do what they want and gain money an the people from the place where they make money dont gain to much and also they forget what they did before, like agriculture.

  9. Hi Tom
    Well I think the culture in Mexico still can be preserved, since there is still great variety of this for example:

    natural heritage
    cultural heritage colonial /Archaeological

    With respect to the question, I think the first is in ourselves, in our way of think.
    First, be proud of our traditions
    always keep practicing our customs to never forget them
    teach our culture from generation to generation
    before our culture above all

    in general must first have a museum in Cancun, because there is none.

    With regard to education are due to take cultural workshops to continue motivating the Mayan language and its dialects.

    In the case of the government, should be to promote jobs, Scholarships and economic support to rural communities.

    In the tourism I think, the alternative tourism is the best option for communities that already supported without disintegrating culture and its natural resources.

    The key is to encourage and promote our culture without losing our identity.

    Culture is everything that represents the human being.

  10. I think that what needs to Cancun to be a sustainable city is an environmental education from kindergarten for children, since they are the new generation, when people with a mind to easily learn and understand the importance of caring for natural resources, if given the appropriate information may be caring nature in the right way and I will be able to generate the money needed to lead a stable life.

    Another thing that we should do is take care of the Mayan culture of our city, as is the identity that identifies us as a state, it is important that the Mayan people to their descendants continue to transmit their cultural heritage.
    For example: the hanal pixan is a cultural Mayan tradition where we celebrate the arrival of the faithful departed, we must preserve it instead of taking traditions from other countries, making us to forget our roots, but I have nothing against the traditions of other countries, but first we must be concerned with what our and then by the rest.

    Now with the new grant of garbage, I implemented the division of waste, as it would be a great start to avoid the pollution of our city and prevent the landfill exceeds the permitted limit.

  11. Well I think that the school must teach as a third leanguage the Maya because is very important not loose the culture that we represent to other states.

    Other thing is improve the museum that Cancun has, because it a way to represent to other countries how inteligent and advance was the mayan without the invasion of other people.

    At least get involve with the mayan comuinities that exist in Cancun and help them to preserv their community without teaching new technologies, and been like they ancesters just to were

  12. first i woulf try to identify which cultures are in my city, because here in cancun we are like a mixing of a lot of cultures from many parts of the country, but also we have the real grounded cultures in this part of the country.
    The principal objectives or goals that i´ll improve are realize that the culture its one of the basis grounds of the society, and we should do anithyng to recover those aspects that make us unique in the world. respect of the diversity its another step to give, trying to understand that the porters of this culture should be proud of it instead of ashame.
    give oportunities to develop the culture in the city, i dont know why, we discriminate indigenous people, and separate them from all the circle that we create. i mean, they are part of this country and they represent our past, incorporate them as it shoud be, its something neccesary to do. so like that we will get and equilibrium in this city. everybody is equally important.

  13. We can´t demolish the school!! Is the first elementary school in Cancun, is part of our culture!!!. We have to use the places, like The Theater in Tulum Avenue, or the movie theater infront of Palapas Park, those are places without use!!. And there, we can build a Mayan Culture Museum, or a Theater where we can make events about different cultures, because we can forget that Cancun is a city wioth a lot of cultures.
    Also, we can use the Palapas Park for major events, with better quality and content, and these events can be didatic for children, because they can learn in a fun way about mayan culture, the events that we celebrate in our culture, etc.
    I think we also can have free school, like Mérida, where people goes to take lessons of mayan, dancing, singing, etc… And every important day, like independece´s day, or Christmas, they make events for celebrate and preserve these days. And the important thing, IS FREE!!! Because people of the goverment knows that culture is an important part of the education and expand the knowledge.

  14. Most of the people think that the goverment have the responsability to do everything that the people wants, for example the people says that the goverment has the fault that the streets are full of garbage, instead of do something. Then, my propouse is that the people need and incentive,then I think that if the goverment give a reward to the community for every environmental and social action that they makes, the community could respond in a positive way.


    I think we have a very big problem in mexico, we have great diversity of cultures but they are seen as people who worth less, people without future who can only be part of a working class, very often i´ve heard people from other states of the republic calling them “mayitas”, making fun of their looks, lastnames, languages, clothes, etc…. so I think i´d make campains of respect to remain people the importance of this ethnic groups, remaining that this land belongs to everybody…but them mostly, and this way try to eliminate discrimination and racism against them.

  16. I love my country, and im proud of my culture, Sometimes i think that we should have a really love for Mexico, read about it, wath about it, live about it.

    My goals:

    * People learn Maya (at least people of the peninsula)

    * In the Schools make excursions to our Heritage sites.

    *Teach kids importance of our culture.

    *Put Espectacular about mexican traditions in the street.

    That are my ideas for the momento, if i think in something else i going to post it .

    I <3 Mexico.

    Pd. In class i want to explain my ideas.

  17. I think that the education is the most important to preserv the traditions, because if since elementary school children learn about our traditions they will keep it. Also in the school the teacher can make some workshop including the family with the student and finalized with a exposition of the final product of the workshop. That is for the society.

    And our goverment can support the traditions by organize some contest about our traditions and contrast them by including other foreing traditions, in that way our society can learn about others contries and can value our traditions.

  18. well, first of all I can not tell really a very clear goal to achive to a sustainable politic with the culture other than to aproach to them and to make regulations, in law matter, that concerns to them, but as it is there are things that we don´t know if they are right or not, such as the supoused “used custom” (uso y costumbre) that the first night (virginity loss) is for the father (biologic father), this is something that hapens here in mexico in the south east, I think if it is consensual it is pretty odd, but certainly there are things that have to be saved in the cultures that mexico hold.

    still, there is a cuestion , what culture does mexicans hold? because we are proud of being mexicans but we don´t know how to define it other than to see what the others are not, the mixture and the roots of our culture are still alive but we, the citycens, can not identify ourselves with them.

    so I think first of all we have to give a meaning to what is to be mexican other than the pale and the indigens, and to show how much cultural value the indigens have for our country.

  19. i would make more programs like the “misiones” made by the catholic church so all these communitties wont be forgoteen, and a i would include them more in the development plans of the government. we have a very rich culture that we have to preserve, we cant forget about them.

  20. If I were to develop a sustainable strategy ill try to involve the local communities and in consequence that the local cultures. Like you said we need no interact with other cultures to “…be in a better position to advance the social component of sustainable development”

    So we are a multicultural country like many others but the problem it’s that we close our chances to know other cultures and learn of them. If we could see their way to live maybe we could change a little per example taking a good thing of them and applying in our daily life.

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