My Culture, My Identity: Ecuador

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Culture is an element that is very critical in shaping the identity of an individual. Having a clear understanding of ones cultural identity makes it easier for a clarified personal existence. Culture is often defined as a behavioral pattern learned and shared by a certain group of people. These patterns may include language, religion, social habits, cuisine, music, and patterns. These people may also share meaning, and the language they speak is the medium used to produce the meaning and exchange it. People from one culture also interpret the world almost the same way. Therefore, it is very important to explore ones cultural identity and clarify the extent to which beliefs helps in the identity arising from one being a member of a certain culture.

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I was born on a Saturday, April 16, 1983, in Quito the capital city of Ecuador. My country is the fourth- smallest country in South America and is slightly smaller than the state of Nevada. It is crossed by the equator thus its name Ecuador. An interesting fact about Ecuador is that it is the closest country to space. The reason being that the Earths sphere is not a perfect one. As a result of its rotation, the Earth tends to bulge at the equator slightly. This makes the equator closer to space than anywhere else, with all thing being equal and further away from earths center. With this reason, Mount Chimborazo located in my country Ecuador, and which lies in this bulge is slightly higher by about 1.5 miles than Mount Everest. Despite its small size, Ecuador has emerged as the most bio-diverse country in the world which means that there exist a different variety of plants and animals in its environment. These varieties include an astounding wildlife of all different types of animals and an evergreen vegetation of every kind with each being unique to its habitant.

Ecuador is made up of four diverse regions, The Amazon Rain Forest, The highland Andes, The Coast, and the Galapagos Archipelago. The difference in this regions is manifested through the mode of dressing, the language they speak, their physical appearance and the family name they hold. The ethnics consist of 65% mestizo who are a mixer of the Amerindian, and the white, 25% are pure Amerindian, and 7% is made up of Spanish and others with blacks being 3%. All these ethnic groups speak many languages that are different, but the predominant and the official one is Spanish. Other languages include Quechua, which is an Incan language and other 22 languages that are ethnologic.

We share many traditions in Ecuador. We also share so many elements including Roman Catholicism, indigenous traditions, Spanish heritage, and modern influences. As Ecuadorians, the love for celebration is immerse as we love to celebrate on every occasion we can. The birth of a child, baptism or funerals and every other are celebrated. A banquet of flowers is usually thrown up, and a lot of alcohol is purchased as per the traditions. This practice is done usually after the celebration has come to an end. People then come back the next day for breakfast to eat the leftovers and also continue the drinking. An important behavior to know about my people is that they are always an hour late to an invitation which we call the Ecuadorian time. I personally dislike this characteristic from our culture. The biggest celebration I had with my family was at the end of the year, December 31. On this day at around midnight every year, family members, friends, and neighbors gathered together to burn monigotes a tradition of burning a doll which is made up of old clothes and the inside stuffed with newspaper or sawdust. It is then carried out and is incinerated which symbolizes purification, in that it drives away bad luck or any negative energies of the year ended.

Our cuisine is diverse and varies according to altitude and region. Cuy which is a roasted guinea pig and an Andean dish is common, Pork, Chicken and beef are also common. For the coastal people, their cuisine emphasizes on seafood, coconut milk, and spices. Fruits are also largely available in the street markets in a wide variety along with herbal remedies and stitched clothing which make walking in our streets an amazing experience. During the holy week, as a family, we prepare the traditional Fanesca, which is a soup with a variety of beans and a dry salted fish. This dish is served only in the week before Easter. My mother would make the making of the dish a great deal; she would always make us cut the vegetables for hour just to make sure that everything would be ready for the next morning. Early the next morning, we would be woken up to start a 6 hour process of cooking the delicious soup. This was one of the many activities we had during the holidays.

Our music ranges from rhythms like the AlbaZos, Tonadas, Pasacalles, Yaravies, Danantes, and Carnavales but the most common is the pasillo which originate from the classic Viennese Waltz. It is currently part of the folk culture, has slow rhythm, is poetic and is sentimental with melancholy melodies. They originate from the music of the indigenous population. National Music is played on any occasion and everywhere at any time of the day. Throughout my school years, we were encouraged to participate in group dances during special occasions and school holidays. Neighbors played guitar together to the beat of the folk songs to celebrate birthdays and Christmas.

Our culture is unique in the way the families interact with each other. Our people tend to perform actions that benefit the whole group rather than focusing on ones self. They concentrate on the idea that it is better to grow together rather than living separated. I still criticize the fact that I have lived in the same house for the last ten years, and yet I only know a handful of the neighbors in my street. In our culture, neighbors would talk outside of their houses and send each others plates of food for no reason at all. Of course, this meant more gossip around the town.

In conclusion, culture and traditions gives me a sense of belonging. Embracing these traditions and passing them down to our kids so that they can do the same in keeping the customs alive. For people who immigrate, it is even more crucial to attempt to maintain those traditions just for the fact that we are surrounded by different cultures, and we need to evolve and adapt. Therefore, I can gladly say that I have traditions from my culture and its shapes my identity.

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