Navigating Mexico: A Matter of Trust

Photo: Catholic Herald


PUERTO VALLARTA, Jalisco — Who do most Mexicans trust?

It’s doubtful that if you threw the question out to a random group of Mexicans that anyone would even guess the correct answer.

But a fascinating study with a significantly large sample group is conducted every eight to 10 years by a nonsectarian organization called the Network of Research into Religious Phenomena in Mexico.

The survey that looks at Mexican religious beliefs and practices, along the lines of, ”Do you have an altar inside your home?” (62 percent of Mexicans, including non-Catholics, do).

The results of the survey would likely not surprise you on most issues, affirming that organized religion, especially in certain regions of the country, plays much less a role than it did in the past.

In and of itself, the survey is really not that particularly interesting to those outside of sociology or religious academic circles.

But one question on the survey is very interesting, asking participants who they trust.

It is no surprise that there is very little trust in federal elected officials. State and local level officials enjoy just a little more trust than their federal counterparts.

Teachers and doctors are still somewhat trusted, but not to the degree they were in the past.

The military continues to have an acceptable plus rating, but not a pristine record.

For a lot of Mexicans, a Catholic bishop is right up there with a governor, meriting little or no trust.

What about the local level? A parish priest does not come out significantly higher than a small-town mayor.

So what profession do most Mexicans, even non-Catholics, trust the most? Nuns.

Whether in long habits and veils or not, the devout women can be spotted at a distance as nuns, and are perceived as modest, unassuming and willing to get the job done.

The survey focused on professions where the words and actions of the contenders were associated with the perceptions of trust.

Traditionally, nuns in Mexico work with those members of society that most people prefer to avoid: refugees, the homeless, prostitutes, the incarcerated and newly released, marginalized families, mentally and physically challenged persons, and the list goes on.

While Mexican culture tends to reward a mind-your-own-business attitude, Mexicans are always observing.

And nuns are seen by Mexicans as people who will not be bribed or compromised. They often come from humble beginnings, but are highly educated.

What does all this imply? Political leaders could be well served by listening to those the population trusts, like nuns.

In a day and age when people are tired of being bombarded with shallow talk, Mexico’s politicians may want to consider following a nunnery’s lead and shutting up.

Or, at the least, a savvy politician might want to arrange a photo-op with a group of nuns, not saying a single word.

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