Cultural values in Thailand and Mexico: oral traditions, folk tales, and proverbs East and West

In the process of acquiring language young people learn about their culture.Through listening and later imitating speech, they learn not only the words to label the world around them, but also the concepts and values to make sense of it. Stories of all kinds keep them spellbound. Proverbs echo in their ears. If they belong to a literate society, they listen and speak for years before internalizing the written word. If they belong to a completely or predominately oral society, their dependence on oral tradition is even more dramatic. Most adult members of any society remember what was told to them as children, especially if the format was entertaining and only incidentally informative. All societies are organized around structures that are known by their members. Status sometimes determines the extent to which these structures are formally known, but individuals learn to find their place within the family as well as religious, political and social hierarchies. They learn to accept or reject the roles of leaders and followers. The inculcation of these cultural values is obviously accomplished through every means at a society’s disposal. This article will present examples of oral tradition, which contain cultural values for parental, religious and secular authority.The genres of folk tales and proverbs will be examined from a sociological rather than a literary perspective; cultural values not literary style will be the focus of attention. A cross-cultural approach will be used since it provides a way to describe cultural values in both an Asian and a western country. Since Thailand and Mexico are both of great interest to the writers, (the authors have lived and worked in Thailand and Mexico over six years and speak both languages), examples of their oral traditions will be examined. Given the scope of this topic, selections of stories and sayings are in no way intended to be exhaustive. Hopefully, they will be typical without being stereotypic. Before beginning to discuss Thailand and Mexico, we will briefly discuss the importance of oral tradition and the place of folk tales and proverbs within this tradition. Since the development of these genres is very dependent on culturalfactors, the complex background of each of these countries will then be brieflyacknowledged, in turn, before examining selections of their collected works. Finally, an attempt will be made to compare and contrast in summary form the unique and evolving legacies of these two countries.