In fact, unless specified otherwise, it can be considered quite rude to come 'on time.'
Another common characterization of cultures is in terms of their 'orientation' -- whether they are present, future, or past-oriented. Mexican culture is often characterized as far more past-oriented than Anglo cultures. "Part of the difference may be related to cultural concepts of control over the environment, which may in turn be related to religious tradition. Mexico, for instance, is usually viewed as a fatalistic culture where the past is in control of the present and future. Americans, by contrast, have a greater sense of control over present and future events" (O'Hara-Devereaux & Johansen 1994). A lack of popular involvement in the government and sense of autonomy over bureaucratic government decisions can foster a sense of powerlessness, which may be reinforced by the strong, relatively homogeneous Catholic tradition of the nation, interwoven with folk customs.
Of course, this characterization should not be regarded as absolute, as there have been many popular uprisings within Mexico, and calls for greater social justice. The fact that so many Mexicans flee to seek work elsewhere because of a lack of opportunity in what remains a socially stratified country also shows impulses towards a more future-oriented worldview. Mexican farmers and other groups negatively impacted by NAFTA's free trade provisions between their nation and the United States have articulated a strong anti-globalization voice within the nation, demanding that the government continue to subsidize and protect historic, ancestral varieties of Mexican corn and bean from competition with the U.S. ("Farmers protest," CBC, 2008).
Still, despite evidence of a more radical worldview than the traditional 'fatalist' characterization might suggest it cannot be denied that Catholicism has played a strong role in Latin American culture since the days of the early missionaries, laced with a heavy dose of syncretism or blending with local cultures. 80% of its population is Roman Catholic. "Religious traditions and customs permeate the national consciousness, and Catholic imagery -- crosses, shrines, rosaries, and candles -- decorate every town. Like much of Latin America, Mexico practices a form of Catholicism fused with native traditions that places great significance on the Virgin Mary and the saints" ("Religion," Let's Go Mexico, 2011). This stands in profound contrast to the United States, with its far more diverse religious population, and the First Amendment separation of religion from civic life.
Catholicism is often viewed both as a liberating force in Mexico as well as a conservative one. On one hand, members of the clergy have encouraged marginalized individuals to speak up for their rights, but the religion is also viewed as a force of social reaction, channeling populist discontent with the promise of a life in the hereafter. "The division is one roughly between progressive, clergy influenced by liberation theology" and social justice concerns vs. more conservative clergy who "disagree with progressives in their views of the proper role of the church in contemporary Mexican society and of its preferred relation to the state (Norget 1997:1). Roman Catholicism often reinforces social norms, such as a patriarchal family structure, but it also has encouraged marginalized people to identify their struggle, with that of oppressed Biblical figures and given them hope in what has, until recently, been a fairly static Mexican class structure.
Mexico is thus a nation that is profoundly different from the United States, but it defies easy characterization. Its high-context orientation clearly marks it as distinct from the U.S.'s low-context social norms and institutions. However, despite its greater religious homogeneity, it is just as complex in its own manner as the United States, and when seeking to define its culture, it is important to avoid stereotyping what it means to be 'Mexican.'
"Mexican farmers protest." CBC. January 31, 2008. [March 27, 2011]