Am I my culture?
Contribution by Isabel Hernández Negrín, Las Palmas, Canary Islands, Spain.
The culture of a place seems to me to be an embodiment of the solutions that have been applied to its needs and all kinds of rituals that have been useful for its perception of cohesion and survival. In other words, the means by which food is obtained, methods of agricultureand animal husbandry and also the ways in which they use what they acquire. The style in which they dress, their particular celebrations, their festive and administrative assemblies, the steps with which they dance, their social structure and how they perceive themselves, how they explain the world, what is important to them, etc. This combination of different elements with which I have been raised has caused me to be shaped by them and in the end, I have become them. So, I feel homesick when I am away, I miss certain scenery, celebrations, food, relationships, familiar ways of dealing with things, etc. For all these reasons it seems to me that I am my culture. I am entirely the result of it. The customs of a place educate me socially and imbue me with their ideas. I end up saying things like “we are practical people,” “we are not very welcoming to strangers”, “we are happy and friendly, but good at arguing”, “we defend our own to the death”.
In other words, I identify myself with my place of origin, whether it is good, bad or indifferent: “My country which no one should criticise.”
This identification with my origin is subject to a significant amount of conditioning, since I have learnt what is acceptable to that society and what is not.
I did not decide anything, it was handed to me and I learnt what I am and that I must love it and defend it. Ultimately it all operates as an automatic social mechanism.
It is not easy to be aware of it and that I am more than my conditioning that I am not just a set of thingslearnt in a place where I was born by chance.
Be aware of it in yourself. Adopt an open attitude to the experience of not identifying yourself with a particular place, with certain habits you have learnt.
I believe that freedom lies in freeing yourself from, or at least being aware of, the conditioning that we have embedded in our lives.
Do you not think that we would gain a lot?