Before you begin working your way to foreign language fluency, it helps to understand the culture behind the language you’re learning. After all, language exists to help a group of people express their ideas and beliefs. Spain is an old country with a rich history and culture. As you begin your Spanish language program, gaining a strong grasp on this history, the values, and the etiquette will help you rapidly achieve success. In particular, if you plan on visiting Latin America or Spain, be aware that corruption is a major problem and plan accordingly to stay safe during your travels.
In Latin America, corruption is a major problem. Whether it is extortion brought about by gangs and criminals or politicians seeking to line their pockets, this type of rampant exploitation has become increasingly widespread. This type of corruption has infected the ranks of the police departments, the judicial branches, as well as those that have been elected to public office. Corruption is no longer surprising to most citizens and lawmakers in these countries—it has since become expected, even encouraged by the lax response to criminal behavior by the authorities.
For this reason, many countries in Latin America continue to score poorly on the Corruption Index put out by Transparency International. Whereas many countries, like the US rank at 16, these heavily corrupted countries in Latin America rank at around 95. Due to the high propensity for corruption in the government, economy, and culture of these countries, many people in other parts of the world have a fear of visiting, afraid that the level of crime is too high to guarantee their safety.
Citizens living in Latin America that have grown tired of corruption going unchecked in their countries are rising up and demanding change. These individuals and businesses are calling for a higher standard of financial transparency from corporations, government, and public officials, as well as demanding the need for regular audits. To effectively combat this type of corruption, any business or individual seeking to do business in Latin America should avoid any transactions that circumvent the official procedures, as well as any that offer inducement or bribery.
Anti-establishment tendencies are quite common in Latin America and Spain. Scholars traced this trait back to the Spanish Conquest in the 16th century. During this period, the only way that the subjugated Aztecs and other indigenous Latin American could protest against the Spaniards was to subvert or ignore the laws imposed on them by the foreign overlords. The many revolts and uprisings that occurred during the War of Independence, the US and French invasion, and the Spanish Revolution, as well as numerous dictatorships, strengthened the resolve of the Latin Americans in their protest.
The lax attitude towards the rule of law in Latin America has resulted in the principle of people believing that they cannot get ahead without employing dishonest means. The satirical 1999 movie Ley de Herodes portrays this notion. The movie shows the corrosive effects of self-entitlement, corruption, and impunity on the Latin American political setup and the society as a whole.
Widespread disdain for authorities and institutions such as the police, courts, and the government have taken root in Latin America, resulting in a beat-the-system mentality. This mentality encourages people to rely on personal connections rather than relying on the relevant authorities. Rural and indigenous communities show total mistrust for the central governments in Latin America. For example, in 1994, the Zapatista uprising began in Chiapas in Southern Mexico, and is still active. Vigilante groups have also cropped up recently to protect their villages against local drug cartels.