From Time, to Forbes, to the BBC, major media outlets around the world have latched onto the idea of the millennial. Like the baby boomers, millennials (the term for individuals born between 1980 and 2000) entered a world undergoing rapid social and technological change that has profoundly impacted their generation.
According to many, those within our age bracket are defined by a few key characteristics: an addiction to the internet, a values system defined by troubled economic times, a delayed entry to adulthood (admittedly true) and an elevated level of narcissism when compared to previous generations. In 2011, Mindthis was founded to set the record straight on what Generation Y was really all about. Our online magazine understands that for all that unites us there is also a significant amount that distinguishes us from one another.
Same yet Different
For international millennials, representation of their age group is seen as skewed towards a very specific geographical region. The criticism of and attention devoted to Gen Y tends to be geared towards the American or Canadian millennial. This attention focuses on issues such as where to find jobs, how to approach differing generational attitudes, how to measure success, and what are our biggest challenges and expectations. All of these issues are broadly assumed to be shared among all American and Canadian. Indeed, while they share much in common, a level of progression, a desire for equality and a greater sense of individuality, the millennials also have very distinct challenges and goals unique to varying geographic groups. This idea is exemplary of LGBT activists who are fighting across the world for equality; though they all may be fighting for equality, some are fighting for the right to be married whereas others are fighting for homosexuality to be decriminalized. It is inaccurate and short-sighted to paint global millennials with the same brush, or measure their impact by the same standards.
Latin American Millennials
The Latin American millennial is struggling with a distinctly different set of problems than their North American counterparts. Largely, Latin American and Caribbean societies are generally less developed and more culturally conservative. For even the largest and most powerful countries in the region, the social and political struggles are still far behind those of the States and Canada. Working within a system that has less room for idealism and a desperate need for pragmatism, the millennials in these countries tend to take a somewhat harder-line view of the world.
While American and Canadian young adults struggle with unpaid internships and unsatisfying entry level jobs that don’t allow them the freedom of their own living space, their Latin American counterparts often struggle to find any work at all. In societies that offer few internships, paid or unpaid, and where family connections are often a necessity rather than a luxury when securing a job, the market is more unforgiving and the standards for success less demanding.
Accordingly, talking to millennials in the Caribbean, some see the career demands made by our developed-world counterparts as overly idealistic. Tina Nehc*, a 22 year old graduate who studied in Canada, spoke of how her friends had branched into fields like photography and creative writing, where she chose to study criminology. Her choice was not because she had no interest in writing or film, but because there was a limited market for those skills in her home country of Jamaica. She explains, “It’d be nice, but we can’t all be the artist. It’s just not the way things are”. This is not to say that Jamaicans do not admire the tenacity required to chase one’s dreams, but rather, they do not see it as a reality for themselves. An oft-repeated sentiment is that, if they are successful, maybe their children will have more opportunities, an echo of the attitude of previous generations in developed countries.
Additionally, living with one’s parents does not carry the same stigma as it does in North America. In many countries, it is the norm for children to live with their parents until they are married, whenever that may be, for the mere economic sense of it. As such, relationships in your twenties are less about spark and more about compatibility. In Brazil, for example, dating tends to be about finding a functional relationship rather than experiencing the highs and lows of love. Commenting on the difference in the cultures, one Brazilian stated, “Americans date to find themselves and have fun. We date with a purpose.” It all comes down to the custom; girlfriends and boyfriends wear rings as a sign of commitment after a year of dating, where dating is approached not as sprint but rather a marathon.
It has become less and less common for younger generations to invest heavily in institutions of any kind, with a general distrust of powerful traditional structures becoming more and more in vogue. Though this holds true in Latin America, and religious and political groups are losing ground in regions where they had been previously influential, they are significantly more prevalent in the lives of millennials than they are in Canada and the United States.
Why This Works
For many, the Latin American millennial is a strange breed. They do not conform to tradition but neither are they entirely ready to discard the system their parents have created. Yet, this marriage of old and new, though a tightrope to walk, has its advantages. Seen in the impassioned protests in, for example, Brazil and Argentina, the increasing liberalization of attitudes in Latin American countries and the global mindset of the populations, the millennials of Latin America are doing an admirable job of adapting their mindset to their circumstance. It is with this drive and hope that millennials have proven to be a generation worth acknowledging.