Diversity and Dissonance

Note from Ann

In my most recent post about my experience in Mexico (see below), I made a significant cultural error — What I wrote was that “all pharmacists in Mexico are medical doctors.” Not true. The owner of the pharmacy was a medical doctor and not a pharmacist. I entered into the experience with my U.S. cultural assumptions at play. Which is more important – to pretend that a cultural mistake didn’t happen, or to acknowledge and learn from the mistake? My friend Janet, who hosted me in Mexico caught my cultural misassumption. I corrected the published misinformation immediately. I also asked her to write about what I did. Thanks, Janet.  Lesson learned!  Here is what Janet has to say:


by Janet Levin in Teacapan, Mexico

Ann’s statement that “all pharmacists in Mexico are medical doctors” is a wonderful bubble of cultural dissonance.  It shows how easily even we who are both trained and self-aware regarding diversity can err on the side of our own perspective.

The pharmacy Ann visited is owned by a doctor, not an unusual match in Mexico.  At the same address where she sees patients and sells over-the-counter and prescription medication, the doctor sells bacon and other meats, chickens plucked and packaged on-site, soda, cheese and groceries.  (Diversity is also key to a healthy rural economy!) In addition to not being a pharmacist, she’s not a grocer or butcher.

But how would one know this?   We enter a pharmacy (the sign says farmacia).  We greet the doctor behind the counter. A leap is made about pharmacists and doctors in Mexico.

Even when I note that this doctor is not a pharmacist, something gets in the way of the receipt of that data.  That something is a blind spot, an invisible overlay of one’s own, an assessment or assumption bidden out of awareness, and which overrides contextual reality.  Our blind spots are the bogeymen because we don’t know that they’re present or we’re operating under their influence… until they jump out and surprise us.

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