Friday, April 20, 2007

This IS globalization!

Last December I was in Ecuador in the famous Otavalo Market, near Quito, in the high Andes.
I was a wonderful place, you could see the kind of things that turists appreciate but you could see also that it was that way not because it was deliberately cultivated to amuse foreign people, but because local culture is still alive. This is to say that I support cultural diversity as long as people is interested in conserving it without external pressures. I do not believe that the culture of a person must be determined by the place that person is born, or skin color, or that cultures are static sets of memes designed to be worshipped and not changed in the slightest way.

That was why I loved Otavalo. It is a wonderful blend of the old, the new and the foreign. It is a symbol of the Globalization I crave for, not getting McDonalds everywhere, but mixing things from different places to achieve a truly unique way of life. Diversify, not homogenize.

As I have traveled to few places and in those places the people spoke either Spanish or English it was a strange experience for me to be surrounded by people speaking an unintelligible language, as is Quechua. A lot of people used it for their daily comunication. A lot of endemic corn and other plants varieties were exhibited at the place, an uncommon view for me, used to the standard corn cultivated in Venezuela. So far nothing unexpected, althought it did not seemed like a fake tourist scenario, like indeed looked some people in restaurants along the way and two little girls who stepped into our bus to sang in Quechua.

The unexpected comes here:

What the hell are Didgeridoos doing in the Andes?! Those instruments, IMHO, aren't exactly part of the mainstream culture. You don't see Jessica Simpson playing one, or many famous didgeridoo players on hollywood movies. Yet, here they are. Or something that looks amazingly like didgeridoos. That was really exciting for me, to see that cultures begin to merge in bottom-up fashion, no matter what the cultural dominant forces are. Of course, Otavalo is not a bubble, and around the market you can see all kind of stores selling contemporary western clothes, shoes and the latests MP3 players.

What is important here is not rantling about the loss of a "primitive" and beloved culture rather than exploring the possibilities of many different cultures sharing a common pool of values, artifacts and expressions, each one sampling them on its own way, even if it is with distinctive historical patterns, as is the case here. I am sure that there are many more examples in Otavalo of foreign stuff, but for me the "authenticity" of Otavalo is not an issue as long as they don't claim that musical instrument from the Pacific are autoctonous. For me, finding non-autoctonous things out of the mainstream in Otavalo did not meant Otavalo is less authentic. It means otavalo is more exciting and heartening about the possibilities of creating new cultures different form the old ones and different from the new homogenizing trends.

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vAl said...

I do remember when you told me about those strange musical instruments in Quito, sounded weird to me! But in fact globalization has its far as we're not talking about free markets and multinationals:)

It's been a long time since the last time I wrote in english. I´ll try to do it more often, your blog will be a nice place for it:)

Al said...

It's very pleasant to have you back on line, and to read you once more Guido.

Nice that you had chosen english as the main language for this, surely it will a good practice forum for all of us.

As usual your writing it's very interesting, and I agree, globalization is a reality, but not one that involves an homogeneous point of view; the mixing of cultures, races, and people in general is always for good.

clau said...

At some time we speak of this question. I have liked the sentence: "Diversify, not homogenize."

I congratulate for your blog; it will also be a pretty space to write in english for me.