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Monday, October 29, 2012

Tales of Cultural Acceptance

I am musically challenged and consider that fact one of my greatest weaknesses. I don't have a good ear, never learned to play an instrument and let's not even talk about my rhythm and coordination. Because of that reason I truly admire those that have musical talent. It blows me away to see someone play an instrument or read music. Oh, how I wish I could do something like that! I enjoy music so much I believe that if I could fully understand it I would be madly in love with it.
For that reason I absolutely adore musicals.  Not only do they have music that I enjoy so much but they also have a theatrical component. One of my favorite musicals of all time is West Side Story. I love the story and the way it is played out. I can actually relate to the character of Maria, overlooking her own family and social prejudices and falling in love with the amazing person she has discovered beyond all that.
My favorite song out of West Side Story is America. Every time I hear it I feel like getting out of my chair and shaking my hips.  Also, the lyrics always make me think of my particular situation as an immigrant.

In the song the character Rosalia sings:

Puerto Rico..
You lovely island...
Island of tropical breezes.
Always the pineapples growing.
Always the coffe blossoms blowing...

And then the character Anita replies mockingly:

Puerto Rico...
You ugly island...
Island of tropic diseases.
Always the hurricanes blowing,
Always the population growing...
And the money owing,
And the babies crying,
And the bullets flying.
I like the island Manhattan-
Smoke on your pipe and put that in!

The author couldn't have captured the struggle of moving to a different country with a different culture any better. I can totally understand both Anita's and Rosalia's points of views. You are always in between. No matter what you do, you will never be from here or there anymore. That's the trick! You have to accept both cultures as they are, or you could go insane from having no real sense of your own identity. Because your identity is now mixed and the sooner you embrace that concept the sooner you will start discovering the wonders of having that mix within you.

Going back to the song I think Rosalia as homesick as she is can't remember any fault in her native country. While Anita being all "American" now only remembers the bad and inconvenient parts of the culture she has left behind. In a sense she feels she has traded an "inferior" culture for a "better" one. And that little point right there makes all the difference. When you realize that any culture has its positives and negatives then you are ready to respect, accept, and enjoy any culture.

Take it from me, the process of assimilating into a foreign culture is one of the hardest things I have done in my life! It was very hard to leave everything I knew behind for the promise of a life that might or might not have worked out for me. It was a complicated grieving process. I know that sounds dramatic, but it really is. With time, you do assimilate into your new culture and  your new life. And the new "remixed" you is always better. You always come out winning because in the process you stop taking your own culture for granted. You see it under a new light. And you realize the more you accept your new culture the wider your view of life in general. It's like gaining a whole new set of tools to help you.

1 comment:

  1. What an awesome post! I do agree with you in the sense, "quoting you: the more you accept your new culture the wider your view of life in general"... this happened to me when I found out we were expecting our son. It opened my life to a whole new way to see the world I was now living in. Thanks for sharing!