There's nothing quite like getting off a plane hundreds of miles away from home and finding that, for the most part, people are the same. Dennis and I are in the midst of two months in Guatemala learning Spanish and volunteering in clinics. What has struck me about my interactions with my host family and my Spanish maestras (yeah, I can make my writing chic by using italicized non-english words) is not how Guatemalan or Latino they are, but how rather unremarkable and relatable they are. My host mother has been hosting for over 15 years. She has found Germans to be stern, the French to be of elevated nares, and Canadians incredibly friendly--affectionate observations that we ourselves joke about in the United States. My current maestra is also a psychologist at a university here. We both find the mind to be profoundly fascinating and she was an instant comrade with whom I could share my most formative patient interactions. My host mother's son is a gregarious and eager 18 year old who loves vintage music and vintage studio equipment. He has a set of 20-year-old Technics studio speakers. I introduced him to some Mayer Hawthorne and he loved the stuff. All the while in our language school, Macklemore is playing alongside Latino artists.
People are the same everywhere. This is not to say that people are all the same, for even in the United States great diversities of personality and perspective exist. However, this is to say that these same diversities exist all around the world. Every country has its Davids, Alexes, Pranays, Ryans, and Dennises; its bros, its gentlemen, its realists, its intellectuals, its humorless, its jokers. Culture and education may skew some distributions, but there are themes that we will find common no matter how far away the arrivals terminal is.
The walls that divide us are artificial. Certainly, I have less in common with an indigenous Mayan girl than with my psychologist maestra, but this is a discrepancy of privilege and socioeconomic status, not of substance. I have more in common with my maestra than I do with a girl growing up in the most afflicted parts of Detroit. Yet even still, what do the four of us all need but to feel safe in our homes, to have and fulfill a purpose, and to love and be loved? There is no us and them. There is only us. Somos uno.