The Impact Transnationalism Can Have on a Culture

Anthony Perez

Professor Rojo

CAS 155

2 December 2010

The Impact Transnationalism Can Have on a Culture

Central America is full of rich culture. Traditions that natives of the countries in this region had, are slowly being practiced less by immigrants that once originated from there. There are many factors and reasons for this decrease in cultural traditions being followed in the United States and within Latino countries. Guatemala is one of the countries in Central America that has lost many of their cultural traditions both with people still living in that country and also transnational families that migrated from there. Gender roles are also being changed, mainly for Central American families that are now living in the United States. What set Hispanics apart from others is now disappearing and changing toward being more Americanized.

A tradition for Guatemalan women is weaving. They are recognized around the world to be excellent at weaving. At any given corner you can see this practice. They have many cultural articles of clothing and accessories they make by hand. These hand made projects are bought by Europeans, Americans, and Japanese people that admire indigenous clothing (Little 163-164). In Guatemala, a high percentage of people wear clothing which was made locally from wool. In the United Sates, there is a small percentage of people seen wearing these indigenous articles of clothing. That tradition, for most, is left back at home and not transferred over to their new life. Many Central Americans that are now in the United States are becoming more Americanized in the sense of how they dress.

Tourism becoming a bigger part of the lives of people living in Guatemala has affected their lives significantly. They understand that there are going to be tourists walking their streets and they must be prepared to be able to speak with them and understand their perspective of different things. They have to watch TV and listen to the radio to keep up with the world. They study the cultures of the tourists including German, American, and French. Guatemalan natives also watch TV in other languages in hopes of learning some of the other languages to help them communicate with the tourists (Little 164). This would be the same as an American city having to learn many languages and understand different lifestyles to accommodate and sell to tourists from other countries. This form of adapting has forced natives to lose their cultural traditions and a part of their identity.

Tourists visit the country of Guatemala to gain insight on the Mayan culture. This was a way to both spread cultural awareness and help the country with the tourism income. In the mid nineteen fifties, Guatemalan dictator Jorge Ubico was the first to recognize the interest in the Mayan culture by many countries in Europe and also in America. He also realized that there was a large revenue opportunity. He began a fair in which a family was shown as an exhibit. They were watched while they carried on everyday life (Little 165). Indigenous women, while being watched by on looking tourists, wove blouses among other things and sold them to the tourists afterwards. Markets were always ready for tourists that had an interest on the products and services they provide.

In Guatemala, gender roles have changed in many ways. Men, which are looked at as providers, have had to leave their communities to look for work. In doing so, women were forced to find ways to make money to provide for themselves and their children. Selling pottery was one of the things women found could help them support their families while their husbands searched for employment. In the United States it is more normal than other countries to see a woman bring in money for their family. Gender roles of females only being caregivers and stay at home wives are being adjusted to meet their financial needs

            Even the traditional way of raising a child has had to change for many families. Men and women find themselves traveling to the United States while leaving their children behind. This sacrifice needs to be made at times for a family to have the chance to progress in this nation. Women understand that their priority is to provide for their children, and having to do it from a different country is referred to as “transnational motherhood” (Hondagneu 548). As much as these parents would love to raise their kids as they were raised by their parents, the lack of opportunity in Guatemala basically forces them to find an alternative path for their children to follow. “Transnational motherhood contradicts both dominant U.S., White, middle-class models of motherhood, and most Latina ideological notions of motherhood.” (Hondagneu 549).

            There is a very high percentage of Latino children that are part of the first or second generation in this country. Growing up in the United States drives them to adapt to the American lifestyle and lose touch with the cultural traditions that their parents had. “They [Latinos] are thus unlikely to consider a foreign country as a place to return to or as a point of reference.” (Zhou 64). Not having the chance to be raised in their own country sets them at a disadvantage to prolong the cultural practices that make them unique. If this separation continues between first and second generation Americans and their home countries, diversity will be lost and Latino Americans will simply be American with no cultural identity.

            Living with chickens, roosters, and pigs is normal in the Central American region. Every animal is used in different ways. In El Salvador, some people still get woken up by a rooster (Argueta 3) and in most of the U.S., people own some type of electronic alarm clock. Many things have changed between the generations due to technology advancement and geographical location. They used to live in huts made out of brittle material like “tihuilote” (Argueta 3). Transnational and immigrant families in the United States don’t have to deal with that. Even though some have to live in small and less than great apartments, it is nothing compared to the conditions some have to live with in other countries.

In the novel “One Day of Life”, the character Lupe goes on to describe a part of her childhood. She says, “My parents could only send me only to the first grade. Not because they didn’t want to… My brothers used to kill themselves chopping and hoeing.” (Argueta 13). The newer generation of Latinos that were born and raised in the United States don’t have to work doing hard labor at a young age. Most young teenage girls don’t have to sacrifice going to school because they have to take care of their younger siblings all day and cook.

In the U.S. most homes have running water. Most people don’t realize how many things require water because it is just a faucet away. In Central American countries, most people used to have to get water daily either from a river or a well and some still do. Lupe also stated, “When I get up, I go straight to the well; I draw ten buckets of water—for bathing, for pig feed and corn, and to water some plants in the yard.” (Argueta 7). Latinos in this country never have and probably never will have to go to that extent to retrieve water.

          Comparing how things were for Guatemalan families a hundred years and the present, there are many differences. Culture has changed for families in the United States that either personally migrated or are of Central American origin. Also many traditions that were once a common practice for them have been lost throughout the years and travel. The new generations can get in touch with their roots through studying their history, which will benefit them in understanding their culture and possibly preserving some of it for future generations. Even though most would like to carry on customs and traditions, Latinos as a community have to adapt and progress before anything else.

Works Cited

        Argueta, Manlio. One Day of Life. New York: Vintage Books, 1991. Print

Hondagneu-Sotelo, Pierrette, and Ernestine Avila. “I’m Here, But I’m There” Gender

and Society 11.5 (1997): 548-571 Sage Publications, Inc

       Little, Walter. “Home as a Place of Exhibition and Performance: Mayan Household

Transformations In Guatemala” Ethnology 39.2 (2000): 163-181 University of

Pittsburg

       Zhou, Min. “Growing Up American: The Challenge Confronting Immigrant Children

and Children of Immigrants” Annual Review of Sociology 23 (1997): 63-95 Annual          

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