LETTER: Ethnocentric visitors in Guatemala

Posted 3/7/17

Merilee Nyland Evans and her husband, Daniel Evans, were indeed fortunate to escape incarceration in Guatemala.

U.S. citizens traveling internationally are often unaware that our State Department …

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LETTER: Ethnocentric visitors in Guatemala

Posted

Merilee Nyland Evans and her husband, Daniel Evans, were indeed fortunate to escape incarceration in Guatemala.

U.S. citizens traveling internationally are often unaware that our State Department cannot protect them if they break the laws of a country they are visiting. International travelers are expected to respect the laws of the country they are visiting, whether they agree with the law or not.

As someone who has lived and worked in South America, both for the U.S. State Department and a private company, it is my experience that well-meaning Americans get themselves in trouble on a regular basis due to ethnocentric thinking.

Ethnocentric thinking is the belief one’s own values are preferable/better.

In the English-speaking and Western European cultures, tolerance for a variety of cultural, spiritual practice and gender relations worldviews exists legally. Travelers can be naive this is not true everywhere.

Inviting change in a country’s cultural worldview is a slow process of education and empowerment for citizens within to agitate for/vote in changes. High-profile attempts at intervention from ethnocentric foreign citizens can cause harm to the very people they are trying to help.

Sometimes an insulted country, feeling criticized/misunderstood by an ethnocentric group or press, will react defensively, slowing the process change many of its citizens desire.

In my opinion, it is advisable to get cultural consultation and think through any unintentional consequences of actions planned before attempting to intervene in another country’s laws and cultural practices.

HARRIET CANNON

Port Townsend

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