Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Week 8: The Mongols


To talk about the Mongolian culture one have to understand the distinction between the country of Mongolia which bordered with Russian an China, and the Mongolian ethnic group who live in some parts of China, and Russian, but mainly in Mongolia. I will present the geographical description of Mongolia because 94.9% of its population is Mongol. Today around 20% of its total population spend 1.25$ per day, 12% have access to internet, 30% are nomadic or semi-nomadic, and a few people has access to essential service like clean water. The climate is dry and sunny with very different temperature in the same day in any season. In spring there are many sandstorms. During summer rains mainly occur, and the average temperature is 65 °F. It is usual to snow during fall. Winter are harsh with some snow (-13°F). Mongolia is known as the country of the “Blue Sky” because it has an estimate of 240 of sunny days. Mongolia is very diverse and unique on its flora and fauna because it has different natural regions from mountain forest near the cold Siberian border and the arid Central Asian. Its land surface consist in  grassland and shrubs 52%, forest 15%, and desert vegetation 32%Also Mongolia has a huge fauna with more than 400 species of birds, and its rivers and lakes have around 380 species of offish. Among all its animal kingdom on can find exotic spices like snow leopard, Argali and Ibex.


Mongols have been developed physical adaptations to maintain homeostasis and survive. They had to overcome the environmental stress of windy and snowy climes and low temperatures. First they developed epicanthic folds around their eyes for protection, so Mongols have a natural eyes protection against the wind and snow.  The second physical adaptation that Mongols show is their small bodies. Mongols can keep their body heat easier than Africans because their bodies are smaller, so warm blood can travel fast through the body to keep them warm.
The cultural adaptations of traditional Mongolian culture are simple to identify: nomadic lifestyle, pastoralism and use of horses. First, there is their nomadic lifestyle. When they had a unexpected disaster in their territory, they could establish easily in a new place, and live peacefully. Because of their nomadic lifestyle, they develop another cultural adaptation called pastoralism. Pastoralism consists in take advantage of grasses. Mongols have not been living in a proper area for agriculture, so they have been using the grass around them to feed their animals. A third cultural adaptation is their use of horses. Mongols have been training horses for centuries. The use horses was an important factor to won their wars, and they them to travel long distance like when Mongols move out to a new place.


The main language used by Mongols is Mongolian that is part of the Ual - Altaic language family where Kazakh, Turkish, Korean and Finnish are included. One of the characteristic of Mongolian language is that it has a lot of vowels (compared to other languages), and it makes difficult to foreigners to heard the difference between sounds. Mongolian has a written system which has a long history, and the creation of its written system reflects how great the Mongolian Empire was.   In 1204 Genghis Khan ordered the creation for the Mongolian written system. One can see that when a society became big and complex, it needs written system to have order and control. Moving one, one can find interesting facts in Mongolian language; for example, even though Mongolian, Korean and Japanese are very different language, they have a similar grammar structure. The other interesting fact about Mongolian language is that it has more than 2 million words.

Gender role 

Mongolian culture has a division between its two genders. Men typically are in charge of military, political care of animal’s matters. On other hand, women in the Mongol culture are mainly in charge of housework and childcare. Mongolian women can enjoy of a high social status because fertility is more important than virginity for the society. Historically men seem to have more important importance, but women have an important a crucial role. It is common to a man to get married to an older woman, so he can get advances by her wisdom. If a man did not listen to her wife’s advices, he would be label as immature.
There are some activities that both gender share. For example, in making and breaking camps or caring of some animals, and sometimes woman receive military training to fight with men. However, there is not a crossover gender in all activities because men are always expecting to hunt and fight in wars, but never do housework. Young learn the genders role by the examples of the adults. There is not a specific age when they became a boy or a girl become adult, but they started to help their parents with small duties like caring small animal, cooking and cleaning the house.
I am not sure if Williamson will be very welcome in the Mongolian culture because topic of intersexed people is new for me. I would say that if an intersexed child will be rise as a normally child, and then the parents will decide if the teen should have duties of a woman or men


The main food items of Mongolian culture are meat of mutton, beef and goat, and milk with other daily products from those animals. Traditional Mongolian diet is provided by its livestock, so the products are available throughout the whole year.  Children only do animal caring with small animals when they became teenager boys are allow to hunt and work with big animals, and girls help their mother by cleaning and cooking. Men are mainly responsible for livestock, and women for housework. Traditional Mongolian diet had to change over time because it lack of iodine, so Mongolian diet has adopted vegetables, pasta and rice. Globalization has helped them to get easier access to the products that they do not have.

Economic systems:
Economic activity in Mongolia culture is traditionally based on herding of animals, livestock and the product derived from them. In the old Mongolia the economic system was basically on trade animals and daily products for goods that they did not have. People did not show great labor specialization because they were more a warrior culture. On other hand, today Mongolia export Cooper, apparel, livestock, cashmere, wool, hides, fluorspar coal and another nonferrous metals to China, Canada, UK and U.S. Mongolian’ import are mainly flue, machinery, equipment, chemicals, foodstuffs, cars which are from Russia, China, and Japan. Also Mongolia has many mineral deposits, but most of them still unexploited Mongolia economy is very depending on its two giants neighbors Russia and China, and unfortunately Mongolia do not have adequate ways of transportation to connect North and South. 

The traditional Mongol culture is monogamous, and it allows people get married with their relatives. A man can marry his sister, but just from his father’s side. Also, even a man can get married his father’s wife if the father dies. In the old Mongol culture marriage was an agreement between the families involved where proximity and social stratum played and important role. It was common that the groom had to pay a dowry of livestock, jewelry, and clothing, so it shows that the women had an importance in the culture because fertility has an important place. Mongolian culture had patrilineal system, so the new couple would move to the groom’s family camp, but a bride still in contact with her family. I am not sure if traditional Mongolian culture allow homosexuality, but in Mongolia homosexually was illegal especially during the time of the Soviet Union, and in 2002 it was legalized.

Mongolian culture has a patrilineal descent system so they traced descent from fathers to sons, and it shows that men control the wealth and power of households. The maternal side of a family had less importance than the paternal side. A husband is the highest authority in his household, but his wife is a big support for him because she gives him advices and consolation. Inheritance is just given to the sons, and the youngest one receives the biggest part than the others.

Social organization

Mongolian social organization has change over the time, but it has always been stratified. Mongolian society used to be divided in hierarchy families, clans, tribes, confederations, and in social classes such as nobility, herders, artisans and slaves existed. The distinctions amount the social classes were clothing, headdresses, jewelry, and horse-blankets. The actual Mongolian society is divided by social classes which are structured by economic status. In old and actual Mongolian culture has been existing mobility, so individual can get a higher or lower position.

Political structure
Today in Mongolia the political power is divided in its Executive power, Legislative power and Judiciary power. Mongols elect a president every 4 years, and the president have to share his executive power with a prime minister. The legislative power is a unicameral parliament which is made of 76 representatives who are elected by the people, and this power is in charge to pass and change laws. In the judicial branch consist in a chief judge and 12 subordinate judges who interpret the Mongolian constitution. Today the government is trying to reduce every expression of violence, and especially domestic violence which is very common.

Belief Systems

Mongolian culture used to be shamanism, but then it adopted Tibetan Buddhism which does not have any God, so it is neither monotheistic nor polytheistic. However, when a person accomplishes the goal of becoming a Buddha, he is considering as a deity. Buddhism was originated in 5th century on India. The is unclear how Mongols adopted Buddhism, but Mongols started to have sympathy for Buddhism when in 1240 the Mongolian prince Konton with his Forces entered to the Tibet, and met with  the Tibetan Buddhist master Sakya Pandita. Also, other factors that have could influenced the adoption of Buddhism are the similarities between Tibetan and Mongol culture like both culture were Nomadic pastoralism, and their geography and cultural distance to Chinese culture.
Buddhism is one of the major world religions. It is based on the principles of non-violence, loving and kindness for all living things, peace, tolerance and compassion.  Also, encourages human to live as the Buddha masters by reach a state of peace. After the decline of the Yuan Dynasty, the Mongolian culture stated to suffer foreign and internal wars. Mongols started to see life vain and sorrowful, but Buddhism brought internal pace stability to them. Tradition Mongolian culture will not function without its religion becose it has become part of it.


Artwork: Mongolian culture present painting and sculpture, and both of them had religions and decoration purpose. The primitive Mongolian paintings were made in rock, and Mongolian nomadic used for informative purpose

Music Mongols used music to express their love for their houses and the nature around them, so they use music for entertainment. The Mongolian traditional instruments are horse-head fiddle, tovshuur, shudrag, and Khuuchir.

Performance: Mongolian culture has been showed interest for dancing, and it first performances were about shamanism, and tell relevant battle and events


Mongolian culture has been affected by many cultures through the time from my point of view a positive change was the adoption of Buddhism and a negative impact would be its interaction with the Soviet Union. Mongolian culture used to practice shamanism, and because of its interaction with the Tibet, the adopted Buddhism as its main religion. I do not have anything against shamanism, and I respect people who practice it. However, I think that Buddhism is great religion, and we can learn something from its ideas of no-violence and peace. The interaction of Mongolia with the Soviet Union had a negative impact for Mongolian culture. Communism always seeks to destroy and remove the culture of the country, and one example of it was the destruction of many Buddhist temples, and the murder of many monks in Mongolia.

Mongolian culture is in risk of lost their cultural identity because its government is not making enforce to preserve it. Every year Mongolia is becoming more and industrialized country.
Mongolian culture used to be a huge empire with an important role in Asia, but today it does not have a relevant role in the modern world. Mongols play an important role to Russia and China because they have a trade line.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Art as a Culture

 What were the cave artists trying to say?
I think that the artists were trying to show what were around them. They painted some animals because they could have a spiritual connection to them, so the animal and people and other figures were part of their religion, rite or something related to their spiritually. My other hypothesis is that the artists painted the cave for more materialistic and practical purpose. For example, they want to show what kind of animal they could hunt or how many animal they had. 

Why do you think that there were so many animals and not as many people in the paintings?

If they painting had a materialistic purpose, it could be a record about what kind of animals they had or needed, so  they had to paint more animals than people. Also, I think that in some parts of the cave the paintings are more focus to explain how animals behave, so the artists wanted to express the animal behavior.

What can the paintings tell us about other aspects of the life of cave dwellers or Paleolithic people?

The paintings show us that dwellers people were very observant and analytical because they started to observe the world around them, and they painted the animal and other figures to keep a record for future generations. Also, I would say that cave dwellers were educated people because they knew the technique to paint, and I assume that a few people knew how to do it.

What difficulties did these early humans navigate in order to paint these pictures?

 They had to overcome many difficulties to paint in the cave because they had to deal with the problem of lighting, tools and material. The cave did not get enough light from the Sun, so they had to work with their primate lamp which I think it was frustrated because they had to use many of them. They had to create their tools and materials to work, and that was not easy to do because they did not have a Wal-Mart or Office Depot on the neighbor.

Speculate as to three (3) possible functions of this art to early humans

1)      The paintings were a guide of how to hunt, so they wanted to have visual support to teach to the new generations.

2)      For spiritual purpose it could be tribute for their gods

3)      It was a way to preserve and teach their knowledge to the next generations because they did not have book or another way to do it.

Compare the possible functions of the art from the Lascaux Caves to
modern art, in all of its various forms.  What are some commonalities in function you can find in
how the art of early humans and modern humans?         

One commonality function between Lascaux Caves paintings and modern art is that both are expression of feelings.  Prehistoric and modern artists try to immortalize what matter on their hearts because artists put effort and passion on their creations. Another, function is that both are ways send a message to the public because art is a strong tool to inform

Introduce Us to Your Favorite Art: I am not really a big fan of mariachi music, but I thought it would be a good idea talk about it.

English translation

Divine women

Speaking of women and betrayals
Bottles were consumed
They asked for singing my songs
And I sing one, two against them.
As soon as a gentleman approaches
His hair has been already becoming gray
He told me “ I’m begging you fellow
Do not speak in front of me, of ladies.”
I told him that we just
Talk about the harm that they did to us.
If somebody thought different
It’s because of the fact that they weren’t betrayed.
He told me “I’m one of yours
That I’ve put up the most with the failures
And women have always left me
Crying and with my heart broken into pieces
But, I never reproach them my wounds
You have to suffer when you love.”
The most beautiful hours of my life
I’ve spent beside a lady.
We could die in the wine cellars
But we could never forget them.
Women, o women so divine
There’s not another way than adoring them

Mariachi music is just for entrainment. Mariachi musicians just perform for entertainment, and at same time they are preserving an important legacy of Mexican culture. They try to give a moment of pleasure with their music by making people feel a deep happiness, enthusiasm and sometimes melancholy

Mariachi music is one of the most popular symbols of Mexican culture, and its lyrics are only in Spanish, but probably there are some Mexican-Americans who sing in English. Mariachi musicians most of the time are from small villages and towns which have not been very affected by globalization, so they still very close their Mexican culture. Mariachi musicians enjoy interact with the nature like ride in horses and practice agriculture as a hobby. Most musicians learned how to perfume their instruments from elderly people, but in recent years many teenagers started to go to an art school. The public who listen this kind of music is from any social class because there are many Mariachi of high and low quality.

Mariachi has a positive effect to society because it a way to express feelings, emotions and ideas. There are many song witch can be dedicate to the person that we love or the one hurt our feelings. Mariachi music is very popular for  Mexican weeding, masses, birthday party, anniversaries, baptism, graduation and reunions, so one can notice that a Mexican party without mariachi it is not a really Mexican parity. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Week 6 Blog Post: Politics & Violence

1- The differences are that Yanomamo culture has an uncentralized political system, and more important is Yanomamo have no written language. An uncentralized political system does not have a judicial system which can determinate what is wrong and what is right. Secondly, Yanomamo have no written system, so it does not have like a constitution or Ten Commandments that can help to control the behavior of the people, so everyone has his/her own ideas about murder. Western culture has written system, and we still killing each other, but I think many people have not kill someone else because they are scare to go to jail or hell. On other hand Western cultures have centralized political system call “state”.  Every state has a constitution which determines what the consequences of killing a person are, and in a few cases it justify the murder. A judicial system takes care to determinate if a person is innocent or guilty.

2-In Yanomamo culture men become aggressive and start to fight against each other to the point of commit murder because of a woman: “: infidelity and suspicion of infidelity, attempts to seduce another man's wife, sexual jealousy, forcible appropriation of women from visiting groups, failure to give a promised girl in marriage, and (rarely) rape”. Also, other factors would be that a man is trying to avenge the death of someone related to him or in a fight against another tribe. The confrontations among men are with shouting matches, chest pounding duels, fights with axes and machetes.

3-In Yanomamo culture unokais are the ones who have killed some else, and the becoming one of them brings high social status with good benefits. Unokais are very respect and feared by other because they are willing to kill, so other people will ovoid to have problems with him and his clan. Another benefit of become a unokai is that he can get easily a mate because many woman find attractive that a man has such status, or he forcibly took a woman. On other hand, there are non-unokais who are the men who has not killed someone else. They are call cowards, but they have the advantage of lower risk of mortality, and they have few enemies.


Political structure: when a man kills someone else in a revenge killing, he will become a unokai, so will be part of a higher class, and his voice will be listen by others (he will become a kind of leader)

Social Status/Social Organization: when one become a unokai, it will bring to him a high social status and people will respect him, and he will be more attractive to woman.

Kinship: the family of the unokai will get some kind of protection because people know that the unokai is willing to kill to avenge his family. people will be scare to have comflicts to the unokai's family

Marriage & Reproduction: An unokai have access to more women because they find him or he could have forcibly taken another man's consequently he will have a higher rate of reproduction than  non-unokai.

5-Most people strongly agree that murder is a wrong action, but we need to create laws to scare the ones who are planning to take someone life. There are situations when a person is full of hate, anger and rage against another person, and he/she do not think clearly, so the person may think that killing his/her enemy will end the problem. If we have punishments for murder, less people will think in murder as a solution for problems. The Yanomamo culture murder is present when men are full of jealousy and anger, so in that moment they do not realize the value of human life and they kill

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Week 5 : Family and Kinship

Guadalupe Contreras is a Mexican woman who was born in March 17, 1954 and she lives in the city of Guadalajara in Mexico. She is the second daughter of the Eleuterio and Amaila Contreras. She is a successful kindergarten teacher who has over many adversities on her life. When she was in college, she got pregnant and had to raise her child whiteout her boyfriend. A lot of people suggested her to quit from college, but with the support of her parents could have a full time job and study at same time. After some years she got married with her daughter’ father, but unfortunately, she has been taking most of the responsibilities of her household.   Guadalupe has a lot of problems and differences with her husband, but she never has thought to get divorce because she has never suffered physical abuse, and her religion (Catholicism) did not allow her to it .My aunt lives in Mexico, so we had a video call to do the interview. I tried to be very professional in the interview like a fox news reporter, but inside of me I felt discomfort for asking personal question to my aunt. I am close to her, but I never ask her something about her personal life.  I feel that the fact that she is my relative means that qualify to make an appropriate interview to her because I was scare to ask some questions, and it is obvious that I will talk good about her. If I interview someone else, I could do a more interesting interview because I would feel more confident to ask more personal, aggressive and meaning questions.

Guadalupe has a good relationship with all her siblings from her mother’s side and father’s side, but she do not spent a lot of time with them because they live in different cities and it is not easy to meet with them.  When her siblings visit her, she always tries to make feel good by take them out and make a good dinner for them. Even though Guadalupe do not spent a lot of time with her cousins, uncles and aunts, she is still very close to her brothers and sisters.  Most of her sisters and brothers live in the same area, and every Sunday most of her family go together to the church then they meet at her father house. Only a few of her nieces and nephews do not go to the mass, but they always go to the family reunion.  My grandfather is old and my grandmother died 7 years ago, so all the important decision are taking democratically, but only my aunts, uncle and father can vote. For example, when my grandfather wants to come to California for vacations, my family has a meeting to analyze the health of my grandfather and details of the flight. If one my cousin goes to the meeting, everyone will ask him/her to leave.  it is fine that my cousin do not have the right to vote in the important decision of the family because no one of them seem to be responsible and mature. There an ethnic difference in my family that sometimes creates problems and discussion in family reunions. The Guadalupe’s husband is from Mexico City and people from there have a very different point of view than people from Guadalajara city. So when my family talks about religion or politics, Guadalupe’s husband disagreed with everyone, make a drama and pretend to be a victim because nobody agrees with him.

I am very close to my relatives from my father’s side, but I only know a few people from my mother‘s side.  It is because my parents got divorce when I was 6 years old, and my mother is very undiplomatic and dramatic person. I really have a close relationship with father’s family to point that my aunts are like mothers for me and my uncle is my second father. I would say that my uncle Victor and aunts Antonia and Guadalupe are the most influential members in my family because they are responsible and the care for the wellness and union of the family. they are in charge of different aspect of the family. Antonia and Guadalupe take care of the reunions for holidays, family trips and my grandfather. On other hand, Victor supports the ideas of my aunts, and he is more focus to advice the younger generations.
In the family we try to have good relationship with everyone, so we always treat in the same way members who marry into the family, but they are not allow to vote in some decision. In conclusion, I have learned that my family has a special system to coexist and behave, and I just realize one of the main factor that I have big family is because of the power of decision of my aunts.

Question 1: With which family members did you tend to socialize with the most? Who did you spend holidays with?

Answer: with my sister Antonia and Maria

Question 2: If you needed help, place to live, money or child care, who among your family members would you feel comfortable turning to?

Answer: For a place to live and money I would ask help to my younger brother Victor. If something happened to me I would like that my niece (28 years old) take care of my daughter

Question 3: Are there family members your subject will not interact with or communicate with? Why?

Answer:  the family from my father’s and mother’s side live in another towns, so I only have contact with my brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews and father.

Question 4: Are there family members your subject knows little about?
Answer: I do not see my uncles, aunts and cousin very often, but we know each other very well. When I visit them or they visit me we have a great time

Question 5: Is the subject family located in a relatively central area or are they spread out geographically? Have family members migrated during his/her lifetime to another country? What were the reasons? How did this affect the family as a whole? Or if the family has tended to stay in the same place geographically, why have they chosen to do so?

Answer:  most of my brother and sister live really close. The distance among our house is around 1 mile. I only have a sister and her family who live in California, and she migrated because her husband decided. Also, my nephew Jose lives in California for personal reasons. We decided to live in the same area because this city offers good opportunities for work and education for our children. We miss our relatives who live out of the country, but we are have that they come to visit us at least once a year.