Posted by: | February 26, 2009 | Comments Off on Synthesis

Over the past weeks we’ve spent discussing Latin America in this course, several prevalent themes have arisen in my mind.  Most important of these is the concept of synthesis and its role in the many different ways “culture” is created.  Latin America, in my mind, is predominantly an area of cultural synthesis–a meeting of many different people, classes, practices, traditions, beliefs etc.  Each Latin American country has its own specific history of cultural generation and the interactions of these many different factors, which is why these “Latin American nations” resist such easy categorization; something which seems to have proved very frustrating for many of us taking the course.  However in an attempt to unify all of these enormously different regions, I would suggest the idea of cultural synthesis as a most prominent characteristic–yet this too is a very slippery idea.
As many students have pointed out in class discussion, we should not submit to the common (mis)construction of this cultural synthesis as an equal, mutually beneficial, two-way exchange elicited by both sides in the pursuit of the common interest of sharing culture…Rather, we should remember that the synthesis of many different peoples ways of life was brought about through conquest, coercion,  and very often the subversion of  ideas, practices and beliefs.  A prime example of this was that which was debated in class–the costumbrista or folk-catholicism practiced by communities of Maya (and non-indigenous) people in Central America.
So perhaps another important aspect of “Latin America” that characterizes so many diverse regions is the constant struggle for power and the social conflict brought about primarily through conquest and colonialism and perpetuated today by issues of race, class and nationality.


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