Sunday, 22 July 2018

Cultural arrangements: Are Colombians truly different from other Latin Americans?

By Vanessa Osses Jaramillo (7th semester FIGRI student, the World in English elective)

It is undeniable that each Latin American country has its very own identity: every society has its own experiences, history, people and organization. But, at the same time, it is impossible to ignore that countries from this part of the world are characterized by a strong multicultural component: besides their uniqueness, countries from this region are not so different from each other.

First of all, it is pertinent to talk about Colombians. The term ‘Colombian’ includes many communities that are really different from each other: some people assume that we are, as a society, a mix of regions that sometimes can’t agree or even understand the other’s position. People also think that maybe we are a sort of Yugoslavia of our continent, a country full of misunderstandings and stereotypes.

Colombia has a large biodiversity and also has an enormous human diversity. The main question at this point is if that condition makes us different from the rest of Latin America. 

Let’s stop here for an instant. It is relevant to emphasize that the case of Colombia is not isolated from the respective cases of other Latin American countries. Is this statement true? Well, let’s build it up.

The construction of Latin American societies has been a process based on very particular cultural mixes. This cultural diversity makes Latin Americans what we are: yes! Including Colombians.

We are not so different because, in essence, we are the mixture of the ‘continental’ (better called European) cultures that traveled to the ‘New World’ and the ancient native civilizations that were present in the territory when the colonists arrived. We are the final product that was born between two distant cultures: the indigenous and the European. Our ‘Mestizaje’ was not a choice: It was the only option that those explorers of the late 15th century gave to our predecessors. Even exceeding our ancestor’s will, the imposition of ‘correct’ ways of developing countries labeled our beginning as one that was full of abuse, discrimination and violence.

Latin American Countries were built with a Spanish, British, French, Portuguese and also an unexpectedly Dutch point of view. This obviously excludes the aboriginal context. That’s how societies like Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Guyana, Surinam, Paraguay, Uruguay, Panamá, Belize, Guatemala, Mexico, Honduras, Ecuador, Peru, etc. appeared on the world map.

In my opinion, this fact is truly relevant as a reminder. Latin America is known around the globe as a region that paradoxically is very racist and abundant in discrimination. And Colombia is not an exception. Sometimes, in our region, we forget that our history is similar and extremely correlated, and that makes us stereotype others. We have built an absurd competition in Latin America of discovering who is the best and which nationality is better. Our problems are increasing the distance between us, and our problems are fed by forgetting that we all are truly similar.

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