Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Menudo's latent function

Merton’s example of the Hopi rain dance in Appelrouth and Edels (2008) of how manifest actions (rituals) have stronger underlying latent effects appear out of date neo Freudian but upon this theoretical observation may hold some merit. Merton (1949; as cited in Apperlrouth & Edels, 2008: 390) says (when countering the attacks of those calling the Hopi rain dance as ignorant, superstitious etc.) that, “Given the concept of latent function, however, we are reminded that this behavior may perform a function for the group, although this function may be quite remote from the avowed purpose of the behavior”. For example, there are certain meal consumption “rituals” followed by many ethnic Mexican families especially here on the El Paso/Juarez region which appear to be just normal invitations to go over to relatives’ houses to eat (ethnic foods) such as menudo. This dish which takes a considerable amount of work to prepare brings the family members together to fix the meal and later to eat it.
The meal itself which consists of pig feet, beef tripe, hominy, seasoned in red chile sauce in a stew-fashion is not all that tasty but the family eats it with together bringing even extended family over. The members may be separated all week and may be even for longer periods but at the meal (preparation and consumption “the manifest part”) the unity or familial solidarity in a way is rekindled. So like Merton’s rain dance the meal may not taste great or even do away with your hunger (the meal is usually limited to a bowl) but the latent aim (ie bringing or keeping the family together) is fulfilled. In your personal/family life can you think of “rituals” you take part in that may appear to be old-fashioned, unfulfilling which might in reality be serving other (hidden) positive purposes? What’s your menudo?
Applerouth, S. & Edles, L. D.2008.Classical and Contemporary Sociological Theory:
Text Readings.Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press

1 comment:

  1. First of all, Mr. Mojo, I beg to differ. Menudo is VERY tasty and is considered a delicacy in Mexican culture. I have spent every summer and Christmas vacation in various parts of Mexico- I've visited pretty much each and every state- and Menudo is a delicacy and the first plate offered to tourists anywhere in Mexico you go. Of course I respect your opinion about it not being tasty because I myself am not a lover of tripe! However, I'm a minority in that sense and people always make faces at me for only eating the hominy in the Menudo! Oh, and I don't know who serves your Menudo, but in most Mexican homes, seconds are always offered- out of respect and politeness- assuming you've finished the half-liter bowl of Menudo they served you the first time!

    Back to the topic at hand- there are many rituals in Mexican culture- like the "Posadas" at Christmas time- a ritual that involves groups of people reenacting Mary and Joseph's voyage and hardships, this ritual is repeated from December 12, the day of the Virgin Mary, up to Christmas eve. Every night the Virgin Mary and Joseph, usually played by a man and a woman or represented by figurines carried by the group, go home to home singing a song. This song says, "In the name of the heavens, I beg for shelter, for my beloved wife cannot go on," which refers to a pregnant Mary. The people on the other side, the home owners deny shelter, and this process is repeated several times at several houses until finally one person gives them shelter- and a song of joy is sung. Obviously this is a Christian/Catholic ritual, whose latent function is to reenact and honor Mary and Joseph's struggles before the birth of Jesus Christ.

    The manifest function, however, is almost completely unreligious. When the group is allowed into the last house, they usually stay for food, dinner, party, and goodies! So, basically, this tradition is a 12 day party! Most traditions in Mexico, I hate to say- have "false" latent functions- like Quinceaneras, your child's baptism, and even weddings- which are supposed to be religious traditions but are obviously excuses for people to get together and drink and party their brains out! The evidence is in the thousands of dollars people often spend on these parties. The church doesn't charge much for the ritual- but 99% of what you spend goes to food, alcohol, music, and an awesome establishment to conduct your party in!

    What can I say, we Mexicans sure love our "traditions"! I'm just still trying to figure out why we can't just call it for what it is- whatever the "it" may be- wedding, quinceaneras, and now even funerals! Correct me if I'm wrong but a wedding or quinceanera with no alcohol and music is usually not worthy of attending- or at least that's the general understanding.