Society for Medical Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
Mexican immigrant women come to the United States in pursuit of what they call la buena vida (the good life) for themselves and for their children. The research described here attempts to better understand what la buena vida means to Mexican-born women living in Alabama, how they go about achieving this culturally defined ideal, and how the ability to live up to the standards set by this cultural ideal affects their wellbeing. While the theoretical construct of acculturation is typically used to study what happens to individuals transitioning from one cultural orientation to another, this study utilizes a cultural models approach to resolve some of the inherent problems in acculturation research, specifically, the failure to define the salient or meaningful dimensions of culture for a particular community of reference or to link culture to the individual. Cultural consensus analysis is used to empirically describe how la buena vida is conceptualized among Mexican-born women living in Birmingham, Alabama, and cultural consonance theory and methodology is used to show how the ability to approximate the cultural ideal of la buena vida in lived experience affects wellbeing risk of type 2 diabetes and depression.