Bridging The Gap: Using Survey Research to Develop the Archaeological Site of Monte Alban
Jones, Patrick R.
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The time I spent working on my research in Oaxaca, Mexico had in many ways the same effect on me that museums have on visitors. Museums house cultures, and histories of people and communities and relay these cultures to visitors. These museums help people and communities form identities based on the similarities or differences that visitors observe. For me, Mexico was a museum. Everyday was a reassessment of my identity or a reinforcement of my cultural differences. This resulted from my status as a foreigner while experiencing new cultures in Mexico. My time in Mexico heightened my awareness of what it means to be an American. My dress, height, and light skin color probably caused many of the stares on the street and increased attention from the street venders. I learned that one stereotype of Americans is that they are all rich. These differences may have contributed to my first memorable experience as the minority, getting robbed on the subway in Mexico City and being charged a little more than my Oaxacan friends on numerous occasions. I had more than a few experiences of being singled out as the rich American who did not understand or respect Oaxacan culture. These types of experiences made me examine my culture and individual identity to understand why stereotypes about Americans existed and how my personal identity differed from other Americans and Mexicans. It is not necessary or realistic to expect someone to spend months at a time immersed in a foreign culture in order to develop his or her own cultural or personal identity. One aspect of public archaeology and museums helps bridge the gap between cultures and plays an important role in the development of communities. It is this attempt to bridge the gap that justifies the importance of developing museums and public archaeology to meet the needs of the communities and people they serve. I would like to think that my research at Monte Alban will prove useful in developing this site to best serve the public and my invaluable opportunity to submerge myself in a new culture will positively effect visitors to Monte Alban.