About cultural identity

Yesterday I entered a chat to know about a friend in Mexico, I heard bad news about hurricane Patricia where she lives, but there wasn’t luck… While I was waiting a guy from the south of Spain talked to me (I guess a guy) and he asked me, as I had told before that I’m Aymara, the following: “Please teach me about the magic Aymara people used to build Machu Picchu.”

Magic… I told him the truth: we used science. So he begun to ask me questions about my culture but every question was referred to magic and the age of Aquarius… After a long conversation to me was clear that he had a romantic idea about us and actually it’s not so different about what tourists think about us.

Here are some myths I have discovered around the years:

  • The poorer we are the happier we are and worthy of admiration.

False, money has nothing to do with happiness: if you are rich that doesn’t mean you cannot be happy, and if you are poor then that doesn’t mean you are going to be happy. To me happiness is a consequence when we experiment something we like, it’s not a reward. I think Christians have this sense of guilt about happiness that in the last books of bible likes to give as a reward to poor people and says to them that rich men cannot reach.

It’s not worthy of admiration because people so many times has no choice about being poor. I think a rich person that renounce to fortunes for a dream certainly is worthy of admiration because is a hard decision, but not a person that is it because has born in a poor context.

One of the horrible things about tourism (Europeans, Americans, National tourists) is the attraction they feel to photograph dirty children in the streets. Guess what: their parents don’t care their skins or wash them because they know tourists are going to pay money for that “authentic” postcard.

An ascetic deserves respect of all us, poverty just for the fact to be born poor: not.

  • We are forbidden to have gadgets except the ones used by your grandparents

Sometimes I read in travel blogs about the disappointing to see villagers with TV’s. Apparently we are authorized to use just old AM radios with the obligatory two fat batteries. Why we have to renounce to live in an interconnected world? I think if I use my laptop that doesn’t change the fact that I’m Aymara it just makes me an Aymara that uses a laptop. Is that so negative? This extends to malls and fast food enterprises too. I don’t understand that fear to McDonalds or stores, actually they help buying our native products and we go if we chose, in the end it just complete our culture. Since kid I remember Coke Cola sponsors our traditional parties.

  • Our monuments and music serves for meditation and spirituality

Everybody has right to their beliefs so I’m not against them. But I have noted several people that comes to:

  1. Consume drugs to get mystic travels. That’s a part of our culture but it was just a part, the same way I don’t believe that everybody in Europe reads tarot.
  2. Perform oriental meditation. It’s a new age deformation I guess, the beliefs of the Aquarius age.  I went three times to Machu Picchu and it seems I saw in each time a different person meditating. Sorry to say but Machu Picchu was more the palace of an Inca and apparently a place to extend the frontiers inside the jungle, in a certain way is like tourists could go to the White House to perform yoga… I think people forget the Inca Empire was as every other empire, we had ascetics, but also (equivalents of) teachers, historians, scientists, spies, diplomatics, businessmen, etcetera.
  3. New age and Aquarius age. those beliefs has nothing to do with us, our main constellation is the Chakana (known by you as Southern Cross) the Zodiac symbols are imported and has nothing to do with our sky and beliefs. Even more, that is used by people to get your dollars or euros (or soles as people from the capital likes that too as they imitate everybody that is fashion in Europe) because that’s what certain tourists want to live. Sadly that new age music and those theories were never part of us.
  4. Hear our music. Sadly after the Spanish invasion our music was lost, only the religious music survived, it’s similar to imagine a catastrophe in Europe and every masterpiece of Beethoven, Mozart et al had been lost and just had remain the “Amen” in churches.
  5. Try our traditional medicine. Actually in Peru there are two obsessions: try everything that ruins your health and try everything that recovers your health. So our traditional medicine is more a signal of our bad habits, if you walk around you are going to see people usually is so short and don’t have a culture of body care.
  • The culture only survives in the countryside

That’s so sad. It seems people think that if you live in a city you are already a westerner and if you don’t “act” like that then you should go “back” to the countryside. Sadly the evidence shows that we had always more cities than the ones founded by Spaniards, and the capital had several times the size of the European capitals.

  • We all are Indians .-.

Sure?, not, really, Are you sure .-.? I was reading  this tittle “Aymara Indian Perspectives on Development in the Andes” of course I think it seems a valuable text and in our culture we never get offended if things are with good intention but I’M NOT AN INDIAN. I’m an Aymara and nothing more. The same way you’re a French or German. Let’s try what happens if I write:

“After a travel to Europe it’s a shame that French Indians have lost their identity, I saw several young men using jeans and loafers, even is sad the damage Peru has made to their culture because they use our potatoes instead of their local native cuisine; after that I saw German Indians and with such a pity I have to say that they’re a fake culture, victims of cell phones, credit cards and others modern inventions they aren’t anymore a real culture but a group without identity. Goethe would cry to see his culture ruined by the modern world, I feel cheated because I wanted to find real culture and not people with TV’s in their bedrooms.”

  • What books say about us is the truth

Bad news: actually the things you believe to know about us is an image given to Europeans so they could understand something of our thoughts. Inversely we couldn’t understand their gods that were three and one at the same time and that lack of happiness. In our beliefs there aren’t equivalents of Thor, Yahve, Odin, et al, also there aren’t demons. Spaniards thought our Supay was the demon but it was just the way we called the nature when it was stronger.

The myth of creation that Spaniards read also are versions because they couldn’t accept a world without Jesus or where the woman has the same value as the man and could be general or high leader if she was capable.

  • We are like kids

I’ve seen several times that thought, there is no equalitarian principle. If people among us commit a crime sometimes people from the capital don’t apply the law saying it was because our philosophy (LMAO!) and also tourists justify the violence in our society as if we shouldn’t follow the same rules. Once a German blogger friend said me that I couldn’t judge my culture, I don’t know why he can judge his culture, perhaps it’s this myth of the good savage and that nonsense of traditions.

What I try to say

Our tradition is the innovation. Get stuck in the past is for narrow minded people. I studied the history of our civilizations and they developed innovating and evolving, never following traditions because that means being stubborn in don’t change despite the advance of thoughts and knowledge, we cannot ignore the world.

We are like everybody: we grew up seeing Dragon Ball; wishing our classmates would be as sexy as Kylie Minogue :P, watching Hollywood and Bollywood movies; appreciating well made shoes; wanting to practice Kung fu; playing football… I don’t know, sometimes it seems we are only allowed to be poor and dance with a smile for tourists. I’m happy that tourists find ugly my city.

(Post-Data: the photograph is a metallic fountain in the plaza of Tacna city, made by the studio of Eiffel)