Latinos will milk the cows, mañana?

By Victor Landa, NewsTaco

There’s no time like mañana.

That’s because the present is indisputable. You can’t argue about now. But you can pitch a fit and run scared from tomorrow, turn to face it … or wait for it.

You can’t get away from the fact that whatever you decide to do with mañana, the decision has to be made today. And that’s a crazy dilemma, because your concept of mañana depends on what you think about today.

Today we’re in limbo time: after Christmas and before New Years’ Eve when it’s customary to think about the year to come – a big, amorphous mañana when we plan to lose weight, quit some nasty habit, be nicer to people or remember birthdays. Today is all about mañana, but regardless of that, you still have to milk the cows.

I found this rummaging through the Internets this morning, it’s from The Green Sheet Farm Forum in South Dakota. Written by Tracey Erickson, an SDSU Extension Dairy Field Specialist, it’s supposed to be a helpful list of cultural concepts intended to benefit dairy farmers in their interactions with Latino employees. The first four – confianza, simpatía, palanca and estabilidad – seem earnest enough. The fifth one, mañana, caught my attention, today.

Here’s what it says:

Mañana – Its true cultural meaning of the word means, “sometime in the near future, maybe.” It deals with the concept of time. Americans are very literal in their concept of time expectations whereas Mexicans tend to be less specific, and are not bound by the “clock.” Instead relationships and unexpected events can guide the course of one’s day. Americans believe “Time is money.” Whereas, “Mexicans perceive time as functioning in a way that allows one to engage in behaviors that are part of a desirable life (Lindsley & Braithwaite, 2006). This can be a challenge on dairies as cows are milked on a schedule and producers will need to communicate with employees the importance of time and the schedule, and the “why” behind it being important. For example if cows are not milked on a schedule they will get mastitis and the Somatic Cell Count (SCC) goes up. If you are providing premiums to workers for low SCC there will be an incentive to stay on schedule.

No, I thought, that’s not it at all. A Mexican dairy farm worker will milk the cows today because that’s when they need to be milked. Mañana has nothing to do with it. Mañana is about all the things that aren’t vital today. If planning is vital, you don’t put it off for mañana. But to worry about things you can’t change … mañana.

It is true that Mexicans are “not bound by the clock” the way Americans are.

I remember my father, a milk man, would rise and go to work every morning before the sun came up. But he didn’t do it by an alarm clock, he did it because it needed to be done, not mañana.  So there’s no need to worry, the cows won’t get mastitis because a Mexican dairy worker thinks she can do it mañana.

That’s a very American way of thinking about Mexican workers.

Here’s something that might help South Dakota dairy farmers understand their Mexican help:  In Spanish there’s no direct translation for “new year’s resolution.” In Spanish we make “propósitos,” not resoluciones. There’s a big difference.

In English we resolve to do better by something next year. Like a committee making a motion, seconding it and voting to resolve.

A propósito is very different. A propósito is a purpose, an intention for tomorrow with deep roots in today. We’ll milk the cows as best we can today, with the intended purpose of doing it better mañana. Mañana will bring its challenges, and we’ll deal with them as they come. That’s a propósito.

Further down the Farm Forum article Erickson writes:

 … another thing to note is that saying the word “stupid” is often innocent in the English language but in the Spanish language it is very offensive.

In that spirit, I’ll say this: A New Year’s Resolution implies that tomorrow has been decided today. And that’s just stupid.

Mañana will take care of itself.

[Photo by National Milk Producers Federation]

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