Latin American culture
Latin American culture is the formal or informal expression of the people of Latin America, and includes both high culture (literature, high art) and popular culture (music, folk art and dance) as well as religion and other customary practices.
Definitions of Latin America vary. From a cultural perspective,* Latin America generally includes those parts of the Americas where Spanish, French or Portuguese prevail: Mexico, most of Central America, and South America. There is also an important Latin American cultural presence in the United States (e.g. California and the Southwest, and cities such as New York and Miami). There is also increasing attention to the relations between Latin America and the Caribbean as a whole. See further discussion of definitions at Latin America.
The richness of Latin American culture is the product of many influences, including:
- Pre-Columbian cultures, whose importance is today particularly notable in countries such as Mexico, Guatemala, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Paraguay.
- European colonial culture, owing to the region's history of colonization by Spain, Portugal, and France. European influence is particularly marked in so-called high culture, such as literature, painting, and music. Moreover, this imperial history left an enduring mark of their influence in their languages, which are spoken throughout Central (including the Caribbean), South and North America (Mexico and many parts of the United States).
- The culture of Africa brought by Africans who survived the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, which has influenced for instance dance, music, cuisine, and religion, especially in countries such as Dominican Republic, Brazil, Panama, Uruguay, Colombia, Haiti, Cuba, and Puerto Rico.
- 19th- and 20th-century immigration (e.g. from Spain, Italy, Germany, France and Eastern Europe) also transformed especially countries such as Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil (particular the southeast and southern regions), Cuba, Chile, Venezuela and Mexico (particularly the northern region).
- Chinese, Indian, Filipino and Japanese immigration and indentured laborers who arrived from the coolie trade influenced the culture of Brazil, Cuba, Panama and Peru in areas such as food, art, cultural traditions, and music.
- 1 Ethnic groups
- 2 Language
- 3 Religion
- 4 Folklore
- 5 Arts
- 6 Regional cultures
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 Bibliography
- 10 External links
Latin America has a very diverse population with many ethnic groups and different ancestries. Only in three countries, do the Amerindians make up the majority of the population. This is the case of Peru, Guatemala and Bolivia. In the rest of the continent, most of the Native American descendants are of mixed race ancestry.
In the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries there was a flow of Iberian emigrants who left for Latin America. It was never a large movement of people but over the long period of time it had a major impact on Latin American populations: the Portuguese left for Brazil and the Spaniards left for the rest of the vast region. Of the European immigrants, men greatly outnumbered women and many married natives. This resulted in a mixing of the Amerindians and Europeans and today their descendants are known as mestizos. Even Latin Americans who are considered "European" usually have some native ancestry. Today, mestizos make up the majority of Latin America's population.
Starting in the late 16th century, a large number of African slaves were brought to Latin America, especially to Brazil and the Caribbean. Nowadays, Blacks make up the majority of the population in most Caribbean. Many of the African slaves in Latin America mixed with the Europeans and their descendants (known as Mulattoes) make up the majority of the population in some countries, such as the Dominican Republic, and large percentages in Brazil, Colombia, etc. Mixes between the Blacks and Amerindians also occurred, and their descendants are known as Zambos. Many Latin American countries also have a substantial tri-racial population, which ancestry is a mix of Amerindians, Europeans and Africans.
Large numbers of European immigrants arrived in Latin America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, most of them settling in the Southern Cone (Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, and southern Brazil). Nowadays the Southern Cone has a majority of people of largely European descent and in all more than 80% of Latin America's European population, which is mostly descended from five groups of immigrants: Italians, Spaniards, Portuguese, French, Germans and, to a lesser extent, Irish, Poles, Greeks, Croats, Russians, Welsh, Ukrainians, etc.
In this same period, immigrants came from the Middle East and Asia, including Indians, Lebanese, Syrians, and, more recently, Koreans, Chinese and Japanese, mainly to Brazil. These people only make up a small percentage of Latin America's population but they have communities in the major cities.
This diversity has profoundly influenced religion, music and politics. This cultural heritage is (arguably improperly) called Latin or Latino in United States' English. Outside of the U.S., and in many languages (especially romance ones) "Latino" just means "Latin", referring to cultures and peoples that can trace their heritage back to the ancient Roman Empire. Latin American is the proper term.
Spanish is the language in the majority of the countries (See Spanish language in the Americas). Portuguese is spoken primarily in Brazil (See Brazilian Portuguese), where it is both the official and the national language. French is also spoken in smaller countries, in the Caribbean, and French Guiana.
Several nations, especially in the Caribbean, have their own Creole languages, derived from European languages and various African tongues. Native American languages are spoken in many Latin American nations, mainly Peru, Panama, Ecuador, Guatemala, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Mexico. Nahuatl is one of the most spoken indigenous languages with more than a million speakers in Mexico, which is officially confirmed by a government's census. Although Mexico has almost 80 native languages across the country, the government nor the constitution specify an official language (not even Spanish), also, some regions of the nation do not speak any modern way of language and still preserve their ancient dialect without knowing any other language. Guaraní is, along with Spanish, the official language of Paraguay, and is spoken by a majority of the population.
Other European languages spoken include Italian in Brazil and Argentina, German in southern Brazil, southern Chile and Argentina, and Welsh in southern Argentina.
The primary religion throughout Latin America is Christianity, mostly Roman Catholicism. Latin America, and in particular Brazil, are active in developing the quasi-socialist Roman Catholic movement known as Liberation Theology. Practitioners of the Protestant, Pentecostal, Evangelical, Mormon, Buddhist, Jewish, Islamic, Hindu, Bahá'í, and indigenous denominations and religions exist. Various Afro-Latin American traditions, such as Santería, and Macumba, a tribal- voodoo religion, are also practiced. Evangelicalism in particular is increasing in popularity.
Beyond the rich tradition of indigenous art, the development of Latin American visual art owed much to the influence of Spanish, Portuguese and French Baroque painting, which in turn often followed the trends of the Italian Masters. In general, this artistic Eurocentrism began to fade in the early 20th century, as Latin-Americans began to acknowledge the uniqueness of their condition and started to follow their own path.
From the early 20th century, the art of Latin America was greatly inspired by the Constructivist Movement. The Constructivist Movement was founded in Russia around 1913 by Vladimir Tatlin. The Movement quickly spread from Russia to Europe and then into Latin America. Joaquín Torres García and Manuel Rendón have been credited with bringing the Constructivist Movement into Latin America from Europe.
An important artistic movement generated in Latin America is Muralism represented by Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, José Clemente Orozco, Rufino Tamayo and many others in Mexico and Santiago Martinez Delgado, Pedro Nel Gómez in Colombia. Candido Portinari represented the monumentality of Muralism in his paintings, making chronicles the Brazilian people and their realities. Some of the most impressive muralist works can be found in Mexico, Colombia, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Philadelphia.
Mexican painter Frida Kahlo remains by far the most known and famous Latin American artist. She painted about her own life and the Mexican culture in a style combining Realism, Symbolism and Surrealism. Kahlo's work commands the highest selling price of all Latin American paintings.
Pre-Columbian cultures were primarily oral, though the Aztecs and Mayans, for instance, produced elaborate codices. Oral accounts of mythological and religious beliefs were also sometimes recorded after the arrival of European colonizers, as was the case with the Popol Vuh. Moreover, a tradition of oral narrative survives to this day, for instance among the Quechua-speaking population of Peru and the Quiché of Guatemala.
From the very moment of Europe's "discovery" of the continent, early explorers and conquistadores produced written accounts and crónicas of their experience—such as Columbus's letters or Bernal Díaz del Castillo's description of the conquest of Mexico. During the colonial period, written culture was often in the hands of the church, within which context Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz wrote memorable poetry and philosophical essays. Towards the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th, a distinctive criollo literary tradition emerged, including the first novels such as Lizardi's El Periquillo Sarniento (1816).
The 19th century was a period of "foundational fictions" (in critic Doris Sommer's words), novels in the Romantic or Naturalist traditions that attempted to establish a sense of national identity, and which often focussed on the indigenous question or the dichotomy of "civilization or barbarism" (for which see, say, Domingo Sarmiento's Facundo (1845), Juan León Mera's Cumandá (1879), or Euclides da Cunha's Os Sertões (1902)).
At the turn of the 20th century, modernismo emerged, a poetic movement whose founding text was Rubén Darío's Azul (1888). This was the first Latin American literary movement to influence literary culture outside of the region, and was also the first truly Latin American literature, in that national differences were no longer so much at issue. José Martí, for instance, though a Cuban patriot, also lived in Mexico and the United States and wrote for journals in Argentina and elsewhere.
However, what really put Latin American literature on the global map was no doubt the literary boom of the 1960s and 1970s, distinguished by daring and experimental novels (such as Julio Cortázar's Rayuela (1963)) that were frequently published in Spain and quickly translated into English. The Boom's defining novel was Gabriel García Márquez's Cien años de soledad (1967), which led to the association of Latin American literature with magic realism, though other important writers of the period such as Mario Vargas Llosa and Carlos Fuentes do not fit so easily within this framework. Arguably, the Boom's culmination was Augusto Roa Bastos's monumental Yo, el supremo (1974). In the wake of the Boom, influential precursors such as Juan Rulfo, Alejo Carpentier, and above all Jorge Luis Borges were also rediscovered.
Contemporary literature in the region is vibrant and varied, ranging from the best-selling Paulo Coelho and Isabel Allende to the more avant-garde and critically acclaimed work of writers such as Giannina Braschi, Diamela Eltit, Ricardo Piglia, Roberto Bolaño or Daniel Sada. There has also been considerable attention paid to the genre of testimony, texts produced in collaboration with subaltern subjects such as Rigoberta Menchú. Finally, a new breed of chroniclers is represented by the more journalistic Carlos Monsiváis and Pedro Lemebel.
The region boasts six Nobel Prizewinners: in addition to the Colombian García Márquez (1982), also the Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral (1945), the Guatemalan novelist Miguel Ángel Asturias (1967), the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda (1971), the Mexican poet and essayist Octavio Paz (1990), and the Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa (2010).
In the 1870-1930 period, the philosophy of positivism or "cientificismo" associated with Auguste Comte in France and Herbert Spencer in England exerted a strong influence on intellectuals, experts and writers in most of the region.
Intellectuals embraced positivism with enthusiasm as they say it as the key to modernization of their economies and societies and a weapon to break the old colonial patterns that still survived. Positivism had an impact on government policy; in Mexico, for example, the administration of President Porfirio Díaz (1876 to 1911) relied heavily on a group of scientific and technocratic advisors who reflected Positivist thinking.
Latin American music comes in many varieties, from the simple, rural conjunto music of northern Mexico to the sophisticated habanera of Cuba, from the symphonies of Heitor Villa-Lobos to the simple and moving Andean flute. Music has played an important part in Latin America's turbulent recent history, for example the nueva canción movement. Latin music is very diverse, with the only truly unifying thread being the use of the Spanish language or, in Brazil, its close cousin the Portuguese language.
Latin America can be divided into several musical areas. Andean music, for example, includes the countries of western South America, typically Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Ecuador, Chile and Venezuela; Central American music includes Nicaragua, El Salvador, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, and Costa Rica. Caribbean music includes the Caribbean coast of Colombia, Panama, and many Spanish and French-speaking islands in the Caribbean, including Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the less noted Martinique and Guadeloupe. The inclusion of the French West Indies varies by scholars. Brazil perhaps constitutes its own musical area, both because of its large size and incredible diversity as well as its unique history as a Portuguese colony. Although Spain isn't a part of Latin America, Spanish music (and Portuguese music) and Latin American music strongly cross-fertilized each other, but Latin music also absorbed influences from the Anglo-Saxon world, and particularly, African music.
One of the main characteristics of Latin American music is its diversity, from the lively rhythms of Central America and the Caribbean to the more austere sounds of southern South America. Another feature of Latin American music is its original blending of the variety of styles that arrived in The Americas and became influential, from the early Spanish and European Baroque to the different beats of the African rhythms.
Other musical genres of Latin America include the Argentine and Uruguayan tango, the Colombian cumbia and vallenato, Mexican bolero, ranchera, Nicaraguan palo de mayo, Uruguayan Candombe, the Panamanian cumbia, tamborito, saloma and pasillo, and the various styles of music from Pre-Columbian traditions that are widespread in the Andean region. In Brazil, samba, American jazz, European classical music and choro combined into bossa nova. Recently the Haitian kompa has become increasingly popular.
The classical composer Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887–1959) worked on the recording of native musical traditions within his homeland of Brazil. The traditions of his homeland heavily influenced his classical works. Also notable is the much recent work of the Cuban Leo Brouwer and guitar work of the Venezuelan Antonio Lauro and the Paraguayan Agustín Barrios.
Arguably, the main contribution to music entered through folklore, where the true soul of the Latin American and Caribbean countries is expressed. Musicians such as Atahualpa Yupanqui, Violeta Parra, Víctor Jara, Mercedes Sosa, Jorge Negrete, Caetano Veloso, Yma Sumac and others gave magnificent examples of the heights that this soul can reach, for example:the Uruguayan born and first Latin American musician to win an OSCAR prize, Jorge Drexler.
Latin American film is both rich and diverse. But the main centers of production have been Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, and Cuba.
Latin American cinema flourished after the introduction of sound, which added a linguistic barrier to the export of Hollywood film south of the border. The 1950s and 1960s saw a movement towards Third Cinema, led by the Argentine filmmakers Fernando Solanas and Octavio Getino. More recently, a new style of directing and stories filmed as been tagged as "New Latin American Cinema."
Mexican movies from the Golden Era in the 1940s are significant examples of Latin American cinema, with a huge industry comparable to the Hollywood of those years. More recently movies such as Amores Perros (2000) and Y tu mamá también (2001) have been successful in creating universal stories about contemporary subjects, and were internationally recognised. Nonetheless, the country has also witnsessed the rise of experimental filmmakers such as Carlos Reygadas and Fernando Eimbicke who focus on more universal themes and characters. Other important Mexican directors are Arturo Ripstein and Guillermo del Toro.
Argentine cinema was a big industry in the first half of the 20th century. After a series of military governments that shackled culture in general, the industry re-emerged after the 1976–1983 military dictatorship to produce the Academy Award winner The Official Story in 1985. The Argentine economic crisis affected the production of films in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but many Argentine movies produced during those years were internationally acclaimed, including Plata Quemada (2000), Nueve reinas (2000), El abrazo partido (2004) and Roma (2004).
In Brazil, the Cinema Novo movement created a particular way of making movies with critical and intellectual screenplays, a clearer photography related to the light of the outdoors in a tropical landscape, and a political message. The modern Brazilian film industry has become more profitable inside the country, and some of its productions have received prizes and recognition in Europe and the United States. Movies like Central do Brasil (1999) and Cidade de Deus (2003) have fans around the world, and its directors have taken part in American and European film projects.
Latin America has a strong tradition of evolving dance styles. Some of its dance and music is considered to emphasize sexuality, and have become popular outside of their countries of origin. Salsa and the more popular Latin dances were created and embraced into the culture in the early and middle 1900s and has since been able to retain its significance both in and outside the Americas. The mariachi bands of Mexico stirred up quick paced rhythms and playful movements at the same time that Cuba embraced similar musical and dance styles. Traditional dances were blended with new, modern ways of moving, evolving into a blended, more contemporary forms.
Ballroom studios teach lessons on many Latin American dances. One can even find the cha-cha being done in honky-tonk country bars. Miami has been a large contributor of the United States’ involvement in Latin dancing. With such a huge Puerto Rican and Cuban population one can find Latin dancing and music in the streets at any time of day or night.
Some of the dances of Latin America are derived from and named for the type of music they are danced to. For example, mambo, salsa, cha-cha-cha, rumba, merengue, samba, flamenco, bachata, and, probably most recognizable, the tango are among the most popular. Each of the types of music has specific steps that go with the music, the counts, the rhythms, and the style.
Modern Latin American dancing is very energetic. These dances primarily are performed with a partner as a social dance, but solo variations exist. The dances emphasize passionate hip movements and the connection between partners. Many of the dances are done in a close embrace while others are more traditional and similar to ballroom dancing, holding a stronger frame between the partners.
Theatre in Latin America existed before the Europeans came to the continent. The natives of Latin America had their own rituals, festivals, and ceremonies. They involved dance, singing of poetry, song, theatrical skits, mime, acrobatics, and magic shows. The performers were trained; they wore costumes, masks, makeup, wigs. Platforms had been erected to enhance visibility. The ‘sets’ were decorated with branches from trees and other natural objects.
The Europeans used this to their advantage. For the first fifty years after the Conquest the missionaries used theatre widely to spread the Christian doctrine to a population accustomed to the visual and oral quality of spectacle and thus maintaining a form of cultural hegemony. It was more effective to use the indigenous forms of communication than to put an end to the ‘pagan’ practices, the conquerors took out the content of the spectacles, retained the trappings, and used them to convey their own message.
Pre-Hispanic rituals were how the indigenous came in contact with the divine. Spaniards used plays to Christianize and colonize the indigenous peoples of the Americas in the 16th century. Theatre was a potent tool in manipulating a population already accustomed to spectacle. Theatre became a tool for political hold on Latin America by colonialist theatre by using indigenous performance practices to manipulate the population.
Theatre provided a way for the indigenous people were forced to participate in the drama of their own defeat. In 1599, the Jesuits even used cadavers of Native Americans to portray the dead in the staging of the final judgment.
While the plays were promoting a new sacred order, their first priority was to support the new secular, political order. Theatre under the colonizers primarily at the service of the administration.
After the large decrease in the native population, the indigenous consciousness and identity in theatre disappeared, though pieces did have indigenous elements to them. The theatre that progressed in Latin America is argued to be theatre that the conquerors brought to the Americas, not the theatre of the Americas.
Progression in Postcolonial Latin American Theatre
Internal strife and external interference have been the drive behind Latin American history which applies the same to theatre.
1959–1968: dramaturgical structures and structures of social projects leaned more toward constructing a more native Latin American base called the "Nuestra America"
1968–1974: Theatre tries to claim a more homogenous definition which brings in more European models. At this point, Latin American Theatre tried to connect to its historical roots.
1974–1984: The search for expression rooted in the history of Latin America became victims of exile and death.
Latin American cuisine is a phrase that refers to typical foods, beverages, and cooking styles common to many of the countries and cultures in Latin America. It should be noted that Latin America is a very diverse area of land that holds various cuisines that vary from nation to nation.
Some items typical of Latin American cuisine include maize-based dishes (tortillas, tamales, pupusas) and various salsas and other condiments (guacamole, pico de gallo, mole). These spices are generally what give the Latin American cuisines a distinct flavor; yet, each country of Latin America tends to use a different spice and those that share spices tend to use them at different quantities. Thus, this leads for a variety across the land. Meat is also greatly consumed and constitutes one of the main dishes in many Latin American countries where they're considered specialties, referred to as Asado or Churrasco.
Latin American beverages are just as distinct as their foods. Some of the beverages can even date back to the times of the Native Americans. Some popular beverages include mate, Pisco Sour, horchata, chicha, atole, cacao and aguas frescas.
Traditionally, Mexicans have struggled with the creation of a united identity. The issue is the main topic of Mexican Nobel Prize winner Octavio Paz's book The Labyrinth of Solitude. Mexico is a large country with a large population, therefore having many cultural traits found only in some parts of the country. The north of Mexico is the least culturally diverse due to its very low Native American population and high density of those of European descent. Northern Mexicans are also more americanized due to the common border with the United States. Central and southern Mexico is where many well-known traditions find their origin, therefore the people from this area are in a way the most traditional, but their collective personality can't be generalized. People from Puebla, for instance, are thought to be conservative and reserved, and just a few kilometers away, the people from Veracruz have the fame of being very outgoing and liberal. Chilangos (Mexico City natives) are believed to be a bit aggressive, and self-centered. The regiomontanos (from Monterrey) are thought to be rather proud, regardless of their social status. Almost every Mexican state has its own accent, making it fairly easy to distinguish the origin of someone by their use of language.
The derogatory term naco was forged by the middle and upper class Mexicans to refer to the native or mestizo population. The term allegedly comes from the word totonaco, which is one of the ethnic groups in Valle de Mexico. Its use has been made popular even among the poorest classes. Mexicans differ in opinion about the meaning of the word. Some would use it for a person who dresses in a tacky or tasteless manner, some use it to refer to the natives, some to the poor classes, and other for people with less education or culture and other ideology. The term fresa is in some terms the opposite of naco, and it is not always derogatory and means always some relative high economical status of the person termed in that way. Traditionally, people with more European looks and belonging to the middle or high classes are called fresas.
Dancing and singing are commonly part of family gatherings, bringing the old and young together, no matter what kind of music is being played, like cumbia, salsa, merengue or the more Mexican banda. Dancing is a strong part of the culture.
Mexicans in places like Guadalajara, Puebla, Monterrey, Mexico City, and most middle sized cities, enjoy a great variety of options for leisure. Shopping centers are a favorite among families, since there has been an increasing number of new malls that cater to people of all ages and interests. A large number of them, have multiplex cinemas, international and local restaurants, food courts, cafes, bars, bookstores and most of the international renowned clothing brands are found too. Mexicans are prone to travel within their own country, making short weekend trips to a neighbouring city or town.
The standard of living in Mexico is higher than most of other countries in Latin America attracting migrants in search for better opportunities. With the recent economic growth, many high income families live in single houses, commonly found within a gated community, called "fraccionamiento". The reason these places are the most popular among the middle and upper classes is that they offer a sense of security and provide social status. Swimming pools or golf clubs, and/or some other commodities are found in these fraccionamientos. Poorer Mexicans, by contrast, live a harsh life, although they share the importance they grant to family, friends and cultural habits.
Two of the major television networks based in Mexico are Televisa and TV Azteca. Soap operas (telenovelas) are translated to many languages and seen all over the world with renown names like Verónica Castro, Lucía Méndez, Lucero, and Thalía. Even Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna from Y tu mamá también and current Zegna model act in some of them. Some of their TV shows are modeled after American counterparts like Family Feud (100 Mexicanos Dijeron or "A hundred Mexicans said" in Spanish), Big Brother, American Idol, Saturday Night Live and others. Nationwide news shows like Las Noticias por Adela on Televisa resemble a hybrid between Donahue and Nightline. Local news shows are modeled after American counterparts like the Eyewitness News and Action News formats.
Mexico's national sports are charreria and bullfighting. Ancient Mexicans played a ball game which still exists in Northwest Mexico (Sinaloa, the game is called Ulama), though it is not a popular sport any more. Most Mexicans enjoy watching bullfights. Almost all large cities have bullrings. Mexico city has the largest bullring in the world, which seats 55,000 people. But the favorite sport remains football (soccer) while baseball is also popular especially in the northern states because of the American influence, and a number of Mexicans have become stars in the US Major Leagues. Professional wrestling is shown on shows like Lucha Libre. American football is practiced at the major universities like UNAM. Basketball has also been gaining popularity, with a number of Mexican players having been drafted to play in the National Basketball Association.
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The culture of Guatemala reflects strong Mayan and Spanish influences and continues to be defined as a contrast between poor Mayan villagers in the rural highlands, and the urbanized and wealthy mestizos population who occupy the cities and surrounding agricultural plains.
The cuisine of Guatemala reflects the multicultural nature of Guatemala, in that it involves food that differs in taste depending on the region. Guatemala has 22 departments (or divisions), each of which has very different food varieties. For example, Antigua Guatemala is well known for its candy which makes use of many local ingredients fruits, seeds and nuts along with honey, condensed milk and other traditional sweeteners. Antigua's candy is very popular when tourists visit the country for the first time, and is a great choice in the search for new and interesting flavors. Many traditional foods are based on Maya cuisine and prominently feature corn, chiles and beans as key ingredients. Various dishes may have the same name as a dish from a neighboring country, but may in fact be quite different for example the enchilada or quesadilla, which are nothing like their Mexican counterparts.
The music of Guatemala is diverse. Guatemala's national instrument is the marimba, an idiophone from the family of the xylophones, which is played all over the country, even in the remotest corners. Towns also have wind and percussion bands -week processions, as well as on other occasions. The Garifuna people of Afro-Caribbean descent, who are spread thinly on the northeastern Caribbean coast, have their own distinct varieties of popular and folk music. Cumbia, from the Colombian variety, is also very popular especially among the lower classes. Dozens of Rock bands have emerged in the last two decades, making rock music quite popular among young people. Guatemala also has an almost five-century-old tradition of art music, spanning from the first liturgical chant and polyphony introduced in 1524 to contemporary art music. Much of the music composed in Guatemala from the 16th century to the 19th century has only recently been unearthed by scholars and is being revived by performers.
Guatemalan literature is famous around the world whether in the indigenous languages present in the country or in Spanish. Though there was likely literature in Guatemala before the arrival of the Spanish, all the texts that exist today were written after their arrival. The Popol Vuh is the most significant work of Guatemalan literature in the Quiché language, and one of the most important of Pre-Columbian American literature. It is a compendium of Mayan stories and legends, aimed to preserve Mayan traditions. The first known version of this text dates from the 16th century and is written in Quiché transcribed in Latin characters. It was translated into Spanish by the Dominican priest Francisco Ximénez in the beginning of the 18th century. Due to its combination of historical, mythical, and religious elements, it has been called the Mayan Bible. It is a vital document for understanding the culture of pre-Columbian America. The Rabinal Achí is a dramatic work consisting of dance and text that is preserved as it was originally represented. It is thought to date from the 15th century and narrates the mythical and dynastic origins of the Kek'chi' people, and their relationships with neighboring peoples. The Rabinal Achí is performed during the Rabinal festival of January 25, the day of Saint Paul. It was declared a masterpiece of oral tradition of humanity by UNESCO in 2005. The 16th century saw the first native-born Guatemalan writers that wrote in Spanish. Major writers of this era include Sor Juana de Maldonado, considered the first poet playwright of colonial Central America, and the historian Francisco Antonio de Fuentes y Guzmán. The Jesuit Rafael Landívar (1731–1793) is considered as the first great Guatemalan poet. He was forced into exile by Carlos III. He traveled to Mexico and later to Italy, where he did. He originally wrote his Rusticatio Mexicana and his poems praising the bishop Figueredo y Victoria in Latin.
The Maya peoples are known for their brightly colored yarn-based textiles, which are woven into capes, shirts, blouses, huipiles and dresses. Each village has its own distinctive pattern, making it possible to distinguish a person's home town on sight. Women's clothing consists of a shirt and a long skirt.
Roman Catholicism combined with the indigenous Maya religion are the unique syncretic religion which prevailed throughout the country and still does in the rural regions. Beginning from negligible roots prior to 1960, however, Protestant Pentecostalism has grown to become the predominant religion of Guatemala City and other urban centers and down to mid-sized towns. The unique religion is reflected in the local saint, Maximón, who is associated with the subterranean force of masculine fertility and prostitution. Always depicted in black, he wears a black hat and sits on a chair, often with a cigar placed in his mouth and a gun in his hand, with offerings of tobacco, alcohol and Coca-cola at his feet. The locals know him as San Simon of Guatemala.
Nicaraguan culture has several distinct strands. The Pacific coast has strong folklore, music and religious traditions, deeply influenced by European culture but enriched with Amerindian sounds and flavors. The Pacific coast of the country was colonized by Spain and has a similar culture to other Spanish-speaking Latin American countries. The Caribbean coast of the country, on the other hand, was once a British protectorate. English is still predominant in this region and spoken domestically along with Spanish and indigenous languages. Its culture is similar to that of Caribbean nations that were or are British possessions, such as Jamaica, Belize, The Cayman Islands, etc.
Nicaraguan music is a mixture of indigenous and European, especially Spanish and to a lesser extent German, influences. The latter was a result of the German migration to the central-north regions of Las Segovias where Germans settled and brought with them polka music which influenced and evolved into Nicaraguan mazurka, polka and waltz. The Germans that migrated to Nicaragua are speculated to have been from the regions of Germany which were annexed to present-day Poland following the Second World War; hence the genres of mazurka, polka in addition to the waltz. One of the more famous composers of classical music and Nicaraguan waltz was Jose de la Cruz Mena who was actually not from the northern regions of Nicaragua but rather from the city of Leon in Nicaragua.
More nationally identified however, are musical instruments such as the marimba which is also common across Central America. The marimba of Nicaragua is uniquely played by a sitting performer holding the instrument on his knees. It is usually accompanied by a bass fiddle, guitar and guitarrilla (a small guitar like a mandolin). This music is played at social functions as a sort of background music. The marimba is made with hardwood plates, placed over bamboo or metal tubes of varying lengths. It is played with two or four hammers. The Caribbean coast of Nicaragua is known for a lively, sensual form of dance music called Palo de Mayo. It is especially loud and celebrated during the Palo de Mayo festival in May The Garifuna community exists in Nicaragua and is known for its popular music called Punta.
Literature of Nicaragua can be traced to pre-Columbian times with the myths and oral literature that formed the cosmogonic view of the world that indigenous people had. Some of these stories are still know in Nicaragua. Like many Latin American countries, the Spanish conquerors have had the most effect on both the culture and the literature. Nicaraguan literature is among the most important in Spanish language, with world-famous writers such as Rubén Darío who is regarded as the most important literary figure in Nicaragua, referred to as the "Father of Modernism" for leading the modernismo literary movement at the end of the 19th century.
El Güegüense is a satirical drama and was the first literary work of post-Columbian Nicaragua. It is regarded as one of Latin America's most distinctive colonial-era expressions and as Nicaragua's signature folkloric masterpiece combining music, dance and theater. The theatrical play was written by an anonymous author in the 16th century, making it one of the oldest indigenous theatrical/dance works of the Western Hemisphere. The story was published in a book in 1942 after many centuries.
The Andes Region comprises roughly much of what is now Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia, and was the seat of the Inca Empire in the pre-Columbian era. As such, many of the traditions date back to Incan traditions.
During the independization of the Americas many countries including Venezuela, Colombia, and Ecuador and Panama formed what was known as Gran Colombia, a federal republic that later dissolved, however the people in these countries believe each other to be their brothers and sisters and as such share many traditions and festivals. Peru and Bolivia were also one single country until Bolivia declared its independence, nevertheless both nations are close neighbors that have somewhat similar cultures.
Bolivia and Peru both still have significant Native American populations (primarily Quechua and Aymara) which mixed Spanish cultural elements with their ancestors' traditions. The Spanish-speaking population mainly follows the Western customs. Important archaeological ruins, gold and silver ornaments, stone monuments, ceramics, and weavings remain from several important pre-Columbian cultures. Major Bolivian ruins include Tiwanaku, Samaipata, Incallajta, and Iskanwaya.
The majority of the Ecuadorian population is mestizo, a mixture of both European and Amerindian ancestry, and much like their ancestry, the national culture is also a blend of these two sources, along with influences from slaves from Africa. 95% of Ecuadorians are Roman Catholic, although their Christian beliefs are mixed with ancient indigenous customs.
Peruvian culture is primarily rooted in Amerindian and Spanish traditions, though it has also been influenced by various African, Asian, and European ethnic groups.
Peruvian artistic traditions date back to the elaborate pottery, textiles, jewelry, and sculpture of Pre-Inca cultures. The Incas maintained these crafts and made architectural achievements including the construction of Machu Picchu. Baroque art dominated in colonial times, though it was modified by native traditions. During this period, most art focused on religious subjects; the numerous churches of the era and the paintings of the Cuzco School are representative. Arts stagnated after independence until the emergence of Indigenismo in the early 20th century. Since the 1950s, Peruvian art has been eclectic and shaped by both foreign and local art currents.
Peruvian literature has its roots in the oral traditions of pre-Columbian civilizations. Spaniards introduced writing in the 16th century, and colonial literary expression included chronicles and religious literature. After independence, Costumbrism and Romanticism became the most common literary genres, as exemplified in the works of Ricardo Palma. In the early 20th century, the Indigenismo movement produced such writers as Ciro Alegría, José María Arguedas, and César Vallejo. During the second half of the century, Peruvian literature became more widely known because of authors such as Mario Vargas Llosa, a leading member of the Latin American Boom.
Peruvian cuisine is a blend of Amerindian and Spanish food with strong influences from African, Arab, Italian, Chinese, and Japanese cooking. Common dishes include anticuchos, ceviche, humitas, and pachamanca. Because of the variety of climates within Peru, a wide range of plants and animals are available for cooking. Peruvian cuisine has recently received acclaim due to its diversity of ingredients and techniques.
Peruvian music has Andean, Spanish and African roots. In pre-Hispanic times, musical expressions varied widely from region to region; the quena and the tinya were two common instruments. Spanish conquest brought the introduction of new instruments such as the guitar and the harp, as well as the development of crossbred instruments like the charango. African contributions to Peruvian music include its rhythms and the cajón, a percussion instrument. Peruvian folk dances include the marinera, tondero and huayno.
The culture of Colombia lies at the crossroads of Latin America. Thanks partly to geography, Colombian culture has been heavily fragmented into five major cultural regions. Rural to urban migration and globalization have changed how many Colombians live and express themselves as large cities become melting pots of people (many of whom are refugees) from the various provinces.
According to a study in late 2004 by the Erasmus University in Rotterdam, Colombians are one of the happiest people in the world; this despite its four-decade long armed conflict involving the government, paramilitaries, drug lords, corruption and guerrillas like the FARC and ELN. Colombians are sometimes called locombians for this paradox and for their joie de vivre.
Many aspects of Colombian culture can be traced back to the culture of Spain of the 16th century and its collision with Colombia's native civilizations (see: Muisca, Tayrona). The Spanish brought Catholicism, African slaves, the feudal encomienda system, and a caste system that favored European-born whites. After independence from Spain, the criollos struggled to establish a pluralistic political system between conservative and liberal ideals.
Ethno-racial groups maintained their ancestral heritage culture: whites tried to keep themselves, despite the growing number of illegitimate children of mixed African or indigenous ancestry. These people were labeled with any number of descriptive names, derived from the casta system, such as mulato and moreno. During this time it was normal for white individuals to marry a sibling or close cousin to maintain their inheritance within the family. Blacks and indigenous people of Colombia also mixed to form zambos creating a new ethno-racial group in society. This mix also created a fusion of cultures. Carnivals for example became an opportunity for all classes and colors to congregate without prejudice. The introduction of the bill of rights of men and the abolishment of slavery (1850) eased the segregationist tensions between the races, but the dominance of the whites prevailed and prevails to some extent to this day.
The industrial revolution arrived relatively late at the beginning of the 20th century with the establishment of the Republic of Colombia. Colombians had a period of almost 50 years of relative peace interrupted only by a short armed conflict with Peru over the town of Leticia in 1932.
Bogotá, the principal city, was the World Book Capital in 2007, in 2008 by the Iberoamerican Theatrum Festival Bogotá has been proclaimed as the world capital of theatre.
Venezuelan culture has been shaped by indigenous, African and especially European Spanish. Before this period, indigenous culture was expressed in art (petroglyphs), crafts, architecture (shabonos), and social organization. Aboriginal culture was subsequently assimilated by Spaniards; over the years, the hybrid culture had diversified by region.
At present the Indian influence is limited to a few words of vocabulary and gastronomy. The African influence in the same way, in addition to musical instruments like the drum. The Spanish influence was more important and in particular came from the regions of Andalusia and Extremadura, places of origin of most settlers in the Caribbean during the colonial era. As an example of this can include buildings, part of the music, the Catholic religion and language. Spanish influences are evident bullfights and certain features of the cuisine. Venezuela also enriched by other streams of Indian and European origin in the 19th century, especially France. In the last stage of the great cities and regions entered the U.S. oil source and demonstrations of the new immigration of Spanish, Italian and Portuguese, increasing the already complex cultural mosaic. For example: From the United States comes the influence of the taste of baseball and modern architectural structures
Venezuelan art is gaining prominence. Initially dominated by religious motifs, it began emphasizing historical and heroic representations in the late 19th century, a move led by Martín Tovar y Tovar. Modernism took over in the 20th century. Notable Venezuelan artists include Arturo Michelena, Cristóbal Rojas, Armando Reverón, Manuel Cabré, the kinetic artists Jesús-Rafael Soto and Carlos Cruz-Diez. Since the middle of the 20th century, artists such as Jacobo Borges, Régulo Perez, Pedro León Zapata, Mario Abreu, Pancho Quilici, Carmelo Niño and Angel Peña emerged. They created a new plastic language. The 80s produced artist as Carlos Zerpa, Ernesto León. Miguel Von Dangel, Mateo Manaure, Zacarías García and Manuel Quintana Castillo. In more recent times, Venezuela produced a new a diverse generation of innovating painters. Some of them are: Alejandro Bello, Edgard Álvarez Estrada, Gloria Fiallo, Felipe Herrera, Alberto Guacache and Morella Jurado.
Venezuelan literature originated soon after the Spanish conquest of the mostly pre-literate indigenous societies; it was dominated by Spanish influences. Following the rise of political literature during the War of Independence, Venezuelan Romanticism, notably expounded by Juan Vicente González, emerged as the first important genre in the region. Although mainly focused on narrative writing, Venezuelan literature was advanced by poets such as Andrés Eloy Blanco and Fermín Toro. Major writers and novelists include Rómulo Gallegos, Teresa de la Parra, Arturo Uslar Pietri, Adriano González León, Miguel Otero Silva, and Mariano Picón Salas. The great poet and humanist Andrés Bello was also an educator and intellectual. Others, such as Laureano Vallenilla Lanz and José Gil Fortoul, contributed to Venezuelan Positivism.
Carlos Raúl Villanueva was the most important Venezuelan architect of the modern era; he designed the Central University of Venezuela, (a World Heritage Site) and its Aula Magna. Other notable architectural works include the Capitol, the Baralt Theatre, the Teresa Carreño Cultural Complex, and the General Rafael Urdaneta Bridge.
Baseball and football are Venezuela's most popular sports, and the Venezuela national football team, is passionately followed. Famous Venezuelan baseball players include Luis Aparicio (inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame), David (Dave) Concepción, Oswaldo (Ozzie) Guillén (current White Sox manager, World Series champion in 2005), Freddy Garcia, Andrés Galarraga, Omar Vizquel (an eleven-time Gold Glove winner), Luis Sojo, Miguel Cabrera, Bobby Abreu, Félix Hernández, Magglio Ordóñez, Ugueth Urbina, and Johan Santana (a two-time unanimously selected Cy Young Award winner).
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In the 19th century, Brazilian theatre began with romanticism along with a fervor for political independence. During this time, racial issues were discussed in contradictory terms, but even so there were some significant plays, including a series of popular comedies by Martins Penna, Franqa Junior, and Arthur Azevedo.
In the 20th century, the two most important production centers for professional theatre were São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. They were centers of industrial and economic development. Even with the development of these two theatres, World War I brought an end to tours by European theatres so there were no productions in Brazil during this time.
In November 1927, Alvaro Moreyra founded the Toy Theatre (Teatro de Brinquedo). Like this company, it was in the late 1920s when the first stable theatre companies formed around well-known actors. These actors were able to practice authentic Brazilian gestures gradually freed from Portuguese influence. Except for some political criticism in the low comedies, the dramas of this period were not popular. Occasionally the question of dependence on Europe or North America was raised. Even with more Latin American influence of theatre starting to filter in, its theatre still was under heavy influence of Europe.
The Brazilian Comedy Theatre (Teatro Brasileiro de Comédia) was created in 1948
Oswald de Andrade wrote three plays; The King of the Candle (O Rei da Vela, 1933), The Man and the Horse (O Homem e o Cavalo, 1934). and The Dead Woman (A Morta, 1937). They were an attempt to deal with political themes, nationalism, and anti-imperialism. His theatre was inspired by Meyerhold's and Brecht's theories, with a political sarcasm like Mayakovsky.
1943 at The Comedians: Polish director and refugee from the Nazis, Zbigniew Ziembinsky, staged in expressionist style Nelson Rodrigues' A Bride's Gown (Vestido de Noiva). With this production, Brazilian theatre moved into the modem period. World War II saw Brazil gain several foreign directors, especially from Italy, who wanted to make a theatre free from nationalistic overtones. Paradoxically, this led to a second renewal which engaged popular forms and sentiments; a renewal that was decidedly nationalistic with social and even communist leanings.
During this time, the Stanislavsky system of acting was most popular and widely used. Stanislavski himself came to Brazil via Eugenio Kusnet, a Russian actor who had met him at the Moscow Art Theatre.
The next phase was from 1958 to the signing of the Institutional Act Number Five in 1968. It marked the end of freedom and democracy. These ten years were the most productive of the century. During these years dramaturgy matured through the plays of Guarnieri, Vianinha, Boal, Dias Gomes, and Chico de Assis, as did mis-en-scene in the work of Boal, Jost Celso Martinez Correa, Flivio Rangel, and Antunes Filho. During this decade a generation accepted theatre as an activity with social responsibility.
At its height, this phase of Brazilian theatre was characterized by an affirmation of national values. Actors and directors became political activists who risked their jobs and lives daily.
Through this growth of Latin America politically and the influence of European theatre, an identity of what is theatre in Latin America stemmed out of it.
- Modern painting
Modern painting was born in Brazil in Modern Art Week in 1922. Among the artists who have excelled in the 20th century, are Tarsila do Amaral and his cubist influence, as Di Cavalcanti, Candido Portinari also influenced by Cubism and Expressionism is the great names of Brazilian art and is the painter of War and Peace, a panel at the United Nations in New York.
Brazilian contemporary photography is one of the most creative in Latin America, growing an international prominence each year with exhibitions and publications. Names like Miguel Rio Branco, Vik Muniz, Sebastião Salgado, Guy Veloso, and others, get strong.
The Southern Cone
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- Latin American Culture Library of Congress
- Mexican Celebrations ERIC
- Latino History and Culture Smithsonian Institution
- Archaeology of Ecuador
- Sounds and Colours Magazine exploring Latin American music and culture
- Latineos Latin America, Caribbean, arts and culture