Posted by: | March 10, 2009 | Comments Off on Transculturation

The readings of this week end enabled me to go deeper in the notion of mestisaje.

I like the way the first text by Ortiz puts a distinction between the terms « acculturation » and « transculturation ». Acculturation means to acquire a new culture, it is « the process of transition from one culture to another ». For Ortiz, transculturation means both to acquire a new culture and to lose another one, be uprooted from another one (deculturation). Transculturation means to lose a part of its culture, to take a part of another one but also the creation of something new so it is a general process of transformation. However, Ortiz emphasizes the fact that in Cuba some people like the Indian people didn’t have this transition and their culture and institutions have been totally destroyed. This text shows that mestisaje could imply a part of violence and oppression: people have to forget their traditions and customs and have to be assimilated. This violent vision of mestisaje is totally opposed to the « romantic » one of Vasconcelos in his text about the cosmic race. Mestisaje is not always the fruit of the peaceful alliance between two cultures but could be the erase of one particular culture in the benefice to another one. In mestisaje, there is a relation of « dominant-dominated »: one culture always prevails on one another. In his text about indigenismo, Cornejo Polar shows that even in literature, there are some cultural cods. Indigenismo is a type of literature focusing on folk: indigenous myths, legends. However, Cornejo Polar asserts that these texts are written to fit to non-indigenous culture. « It is still a mestizo literature ». « If an indigenous literature must come, it will come in due time, when the Indians themselves are able to produce it ». The real indigenous culture is based on oral storytelling or dance, or they use a graphic language. But on the other hand, this kind kind of literature is also a way to resist. It’s a way to prove that the Spanish didn’t destroy all the indigenous culture which still remains. One could analyze mestisaje and transculturation as the domination of one part on another one: the dominant culture on the indigenous one, but even if the dominated culture is minimized, it is still part of the mix and still exists.


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