The definition of culture has always been one of the most controversial discussion subjects due to the variety of aspects that create a cultural paradigm for an individual with a certain ethnic and social affiliation. Some people perceive culture as a notion that stands for particular behavioral patterns predetermined for a social group. Others, on the other hand, perceive it as a term used to denote the scopes of national heritage. Culture itself is an umbrella term for all the aforementioned notions, as it encompasses both diachronic and synchronic aspects of human development – individual and within a social group. This development is a priori influenced by various external factors in symbiosis with a personal reflection on the environment.
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Over the past years, despite the already existing dissonance over culture perception, the globalization process has greatly modified the cultural aspect in terms of its ethnic identity. Globalization, standing for the process of building an interrelated worldwide network, has become a subject for continuous discussion due to some people being afraid of it eradicating the cultural variety. In fact, according to Pieterse, the cultural difference could be regarded from three major perspectives: “cultural differentialism, cultural convergence, and cultural hybridization” (42). Hence, all these different constituents are now somehow juxtaposed to each other to reach a consensus on global culture perception.
The major issue here, however, lies in the fact that people often miscomprehend the idea of the world “becoming smaller” for the desire to create a universally equal cultural interpretation. Thus, it is of significant importance nowadays to draw attention to the peculiarities of certain cultures to raise people’s awareness of it, along with showing respect to the ethnic unit that had been guarding its values for centuries. One of the prime examples of such complex and multi-dimensional units is the Hispanic culture.
Hispanic Cultural Background
The Hispanic cultural segment is one of the most diverse and rapid-growing in the world. However, Hispanic history is replete with various precedents of suppressing its cultural value to make people follow the cultural patterns of the colonizing lands. The very cultural group of Hispanics is quite diverse due to the presence of various countries, races, and historical backgrounds, which makes it even more challenging to define the cultural aspects that unite them as a community. Researchers claim that while Hispanics vividly represent the socioeconomic gap within the community, they still share practically identical beliefs and values as a culture (Ruiz). To examine the genesis of such a regularity, scholars have identified cultural scripts and values, important to the representatives of Hispanic culture:
- Collectivism. Hispanics perceive major accomplishments as dependent on a collective effort instead of taking individual credit for it;
- Simpatia. Hispanic people significantly value interpersonal relationships both within and outside the community, making it natural to communicate a lot;
- Personalismo. Despite being culturally interrelated, the notion of personal dignity and self-identification is crucial for the community;
- Respeto. The idea of mutual respect is valid in terms of both legislative and interpersonal relationships, highly evaluating the peculiarities of communication between family members;
- Familismo. Finally, the most important and extensive aspect of Hispanic culture implies an absolute priority of family in one’s life that remains relevant regardless of any external factors.
Hence, considering the aforementioned aspects of the Hispanic culture hierarchy, it might be outlined that the family is one of the most crucial indicators that contribute to developing a sense of community. To take a closer look at the issue, it is of significant importance to dwell upon the genesis of the familismo aspect of the Hispanic culture.
Family as a Nuclear Notion of Hispanic Culture
In the course of history, ethnicities that were to be discriminated against or mistreated quite often managed to find their home and family the things that gave them the power to live in this world. As a result, the cultural distribution patterns in the world vary greatly, making developed countries replete with individualists who refuse to see themselves as a part of a community. However, the nations that are to act together to stay strong feel a great deal of attachment to the family. When it comes to the Hispanic culture, Ruiz claims that the loyalty and solidarity within a family unit could be reflected in the following ways:
- A moral obligation to support family members both financially and emotionally;
- Relying on the family’s support;
- Defining family members as role models in terms of lifestyle and behavior.
Hence, the family unit serves as a nucleus of culture formation that later secures the development of all the other external cultural aspects.
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Speaking of the basic principles of self-actualization, crucial for one’s cultural identification, it is important to mention the significant role family connection plays in its development. First, self-actualization stands for one’s adequate assessment of his or her capabilities, environment, and values that later define the individual’s identity. One’s adequate perception of belonging and abilities contributes a lot to the overall cultural structure of a community. In the case of the Hispanic culture, the process of self-actualization is influenced greatly by the family that teaches basic values and morals from early childhood (Ortiz). Moreover, the notion of self-actualization is essential in the context of the Hispanic culture being surrounded by other cultures willing to impact the Hispanics and affect their self-identification. Being raised in a friendly and respectful environment, Hispanics then manage to secure their cultural dignity despite any attempts of interference.
The patterns of relationships within a family are, by all means, beneficial in terms of creating an extensive hierarchy of cultural interconnections. Being multi-dimensional, Hispanic culture consists of a variety of smaller ethnic communities that later define the whole cultural segment. The initial communities, however, are still formed with the help of extended families maintaining healthy relationships with each other. However, it was mentioned at the beginning of the essay that the culture itself is identified and embraced through a long and demanding journey of discovering the traditions of one’s ancestors, along with the behavioral patterns of peers who become affected by modern reality. Hence, inside of each family unit, there exists a series of rituals that serve as cultural heritage and unite the family on an emotionally deeper level. In the case of Hispanic culture, one such sacred aspect is food.
Food as an Integral Constituent of Hispanic Culture
Food and nutrition have always been irreplaceable in the context of everyone’s lifestyle. Figuratively speaking, the things that allow people to stay alive physically are the ones that encourage them to develop spiritually as well. However, the notion of food has become so profoundly integrated into people’s daily routine that people rarely reflect on their relationship with it. It is capable of influencing cultural development both within and outside any culture, including the Hispanics.
To begin with, it goes without saying that when a person wants to obtain a better understanding of another culture or separate ethnic group, the national food and eating habits are one of the most widely used tools to establish this connection to the culture. For instance, when traveling to Japan or Italy, there is no way a person would refuse to try sushi or traditional Italian pasta. Even if they refuse, however, the overall cultural impression would be significantly distorted. However, the irony of the situation lies in the fact that Italian or Japanese natives do not dwell upon the significance of this food in their lives. The same dilemma could be related to Hispanic culture.
Speaking of traditional Hispanic food, practically every person can come up with a couple of dishes typical for the culture, whether it is Dominican or Mexican. However, barely anyone thinks of how these dishes ended up being the national symbol in the 21st century. The worldwide known recipes are being passed from generation to generation with the help of communities that cherish their heritage. Previously, however, those recipes kept together families that, as it was already established, formed the ethnic communities in the first place. The dishes themselves, thus, were created as a part of traditional family gatherings, as families had to find a precedent to establish the meetings’ frequency.
To define the correlational patterns between cultural development and food, researchers decided to dwell upon the role it plays in individuals’ daily lives. As a result of the meticulous researches, it was established that food habits define the ways people communicate with each other, claiming their moral values to a community (Counihan and Penny). For instance, the Hispanic regions that struggle with economic or food scarcity issues have a greater sense of community, as their food habits bring them together to be satisfied with life.
Furthermore, the patterns of Hispanic culture are also contributed by the diet. According to Lindberg,
Culture is intimately tied to diet. It has been suggested that there is perhaps no better way to understand a culture, its values, preoccupations, and fears than by examining its attitudes toward food. Food not only provides daily sustenance but also provides a core element that bonds families and communities and provides a common component to mark rites of passage and celebrations (1).
Bearing this assumption in mind, it becomes clear that the “core element” in this structure presupposes the direct influence on the Hispanic lifestyle. The most vivid example to reflect on the statement would be to analyze the eating habits of most Hispanic ethnic groups. Hispanic traditional food is quite nutritious yet sometimes contains a high-fat rate, which greatly affects one’s cardiovascular system. As a result, Hispanics are to control their eating patterns in order not to harm themselves.
Quite frequently, when people try hard to lose weight, some of them cannot restrain from eating a specific food, no matter how hard they try. While many people consider this fact a lack of will, it might be the impact of the eating habits culturally developed for centuries. Food culture predetermines one’s genetic predisposition to certain types of flavor, average amounts of the meal taken per day, and even modifies one’s taste buds (Lindberg). Since people of different cultures bear a different attitude to the food, they inevitably feel closer to their families or community, as they feel understood by these people. The same applies to the Hispanic culture, who cannot imagine family gatherings without dinner with a variety of traditional food. In such a way, they have the opportunity to feel the attachment to their roots. Researchers also claim that family and food serve as the central elements of the Hispanic culture, as the family members’ attitude towards their relative’s eating habits is an indicator of cultural affiliation.
Culture has always been one of the most controversial research subjects, as, throughout history, scholars did not even manage to reach a consensus in terms of its definition. In terms of this essay, the complexity of cultural elements was examined in the example of Hispanic cultural development. This particular culture, while embracing a variety of ethnicities and races, seems to agree on the significance of the family and food in its life. As it was assumed in the aforementioned essay, the notion of family is crucial to the Hispanic culture due to its encouraging idea of interdependence and belonging, which was formed over the centuries. The food, in its turn, became an integral part of family gatherings and Hispanics’ lifestyles. However, even though these elements are of significant importance to the culture, the richness of the Hispanic community should never be limited to these two notions.
Counihan, Carole, and Penny Van Esterik, eds. Food and culture: A reader. Routledge, 2012.
Lindberg, Nangel M., et al. “Weight-Loss Interventions for Hispanic Populations: The Role of Culture.” Journal of Obesity, 2013, pp. 1–6.
Ortiz, Fernando A. “Self-Actualization in the Latino/Hispanic Culture.” Journal of Humanistic Psychology, vol. 60, no. 3, 2017, pp. 418–435.
Pieterse, Jan Nederveen. Globalization and Culture: Global Mélange. Rowman & Littlefield, 2019.
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Ruiz, Elizabeth. “Hispanic Culture and Relational Cultural Theory.” Journal of Creativity in Mental Health, vol. 1, no. 1, 2005, pp. 33-55.