Ethos of Latin America

Posted by: | February 23, 2009 | Comments Off on Ethos of Latin America

At this stage in our course on Popular Culture in Latin America seems fair to give some reflection upon topics we have discussed in class and in the blog – I will leave my post to free thoughts not worrying about referencing the articles.

Culture, Popular Culture, and Latin American Culture are most relevant in its capacity to pose questions constantly bursting the forms culture takes in society. The notion of society throughout history has strong ties to how reality shapes people’s personal identities, and in the case of Latin America, the heterogeneity of national identities as well. In fact, I realize history and time frame meanings and customs that naturally represent popular culture at any given moment. In this sense, civilization, as human-made complex instruments of appropriation and transformation of nature, illustrates the realm that gives meaning to culture. I dont intend to portray a homogenous civilization, thus it is vital to address subjectivity within its regional and national expressions.
Within the broad notions of popular culture, as evidenced by the variety of our readings, are its essential forms of expression: folklore culture, mass culture, and high culture. Interestingly, this basic concept was predominant in our first class brainstorming about popular culture. These three spheres are intertwined and dynamic having different levels of influence between each other. Popular culture is a key instrument in conserving and developing collective memory and consciousness- which can be often seen as functioning for the establishment of national integrity and identity. In this process, the people meld with the production of popular culture, for its meanings and values are manifested in daily lives of groups. The value of this lived form of culture is in its social capacity to integrate groups of people and help individuals make sense of their existence.
I guess the different expressions of culture, which can be noticed to vary in the accomplishment of civilizations, as in the dichotomy between Ibero and Ibero-American culture, are related to its imperial expansion and parallel development of the high culture, in literary and other artistic forms. The cultural production in Spain and Portugal, for example, accompanied the state formation and its influence in overseas colonialism. Perhaps, what the case of Latin American countries illustrates is a lag between the nation today and the consciousness of its values and meanings in artistic expressions. An example would be the Modernist Movement in Brasil during the 1920 which advocated fiercely (specially through the Cannibalist Movement) the need to find the brazilian soul in regionalism, at the same time appropriating the avant-garde European influences as to construct an authentic image of Brasil. This movement though clearly lagged behind the characteristics of the pristine images of Brasil, thus found much of its strength in glorifying the native and traditional ways, while the country was beginning to build the foundations of modernity, industrialization, and capitalism.
The very weakening from the denial of the historicity that ties the Latin American trajectory and the Iberian countries demonstrates increasing consciousness in the continuous search for authenticity in Latin American countries. Neither denying, nor glorifying its European influences would enhance the mission of establishing contemporary national identities in the region. It is important to understand Latin America in the context of the european, african and native indigenous heritage; specific in different levels to each nation. These should be seen as the seeds for the increasingly mestizo populations of Latin American countries, becoming agents and symbols of a trajectory of cultural syncretism that occurred and continues to shape it.
Lastly, I would like to comment the paradoxical use of the term ‘Popular Culture in Latin America’ as if inflicts a homogeneity, perhaps mostly to be seen in one of the two common Ibero-European metropolises of Spain and Portugal, and reflects an understanding of this region in opposition to the rest of the world. Ultimately though, Latin American national boundaries portray fragmentations that definitely undermine the cultural similarities between its countries.


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