So I’m finally Manitoba, Mexico, and will eventually be heading to the Mormon colonies in Chihuahua and also the Mennonite colonies in Durango and Zacatecas. I’m doing research for my book. I have almost drafted the manuscript. And then I “just” need to revise the entire thing. Then my faithful editor, my dad, will make sure that it’s good enough. The writing is going fairly well, in part because a lot of these ideas have been percolating since I presented them for the first time at LASA in May of 2013. The other part of why it’s going well is my faithful unpaid editor.
I am reluctant to finish the manuscript, in part because I worry that my conclusions are going to offend someone. I am, of course, always worried that I am going to offend someone. The conclusions go against conventional academic discourse, that the Mennonites are separate somehow from Mexico; the research suggests some level of integration since arrival. Or, the research is from a perspective that serves to unite people from different Mennonite groups, and so focuses more on a Mennonite identity and less on how the Mennonites fit into Mexico. Research on Mormons is also primarily from an identity-based perspective. But, I believe that they are aware of their integration with Mexican society because it has been intentional for a longer period of time. Of course, I have not yet visited them, so perhaps I will come up with more problematic conclusions later. To date, I have only corresponded with some wonderful Mormons (who are also scholars of Mexico), so I am not sure whether and how well my research matches up to the typical experience. (Professors, teachers and church leaders might not be typical in any group. It is, somehow, easy for me to understand and relate to them though. I wonder why?).
My goal, then, for the next three weeks or so, is to keep paying attention, and to seek out opportunities to use my contacts and hosts (who speak the same languages I do) to learn about the rest of the community that does not speak the same languages I do. It is possible to glean a lot of information from simple interactions, especially when one is given to over-interpreting everyday events for one’s job. This should allow me to pay attention to people that are less frequently in scholarly literature, and to the stories that they might tell me, or show me. I also hope that paying attention to them might allow me to flesh out the hints at their lives that I see in literature and popular culture.