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Globalize Your Traditions

Tradition vs. Globalization

My father’s family moved from Latvia to the United States in the 1940s. With them they brought a vast array of traditions and beliefs and one of my favorite things about this life is being able to participate in some of them. I have always loved listening to Latvian folk tales, making perogs and pastries with my ‘Vecmamin’ (Grandmother), and  wearing some of the older fashions to school. I still love dancing traditional Latvian dances to traditional Latvian songs at family gatherings and weddings. And yet, although my cousins and I have tried our best to continue appreciating all of these special traditions, we are failing at being exactly like our elders.

The Indans Family arriving to America from Latvia circa mid 1940s

The Indans Family arriving to America from Latvia circa mid 1940s

In college, I attempted to tackle this issue of family traditions in peril in a short documentary film. The danger of lost tradition appeared to stem from two main culprits: intermarriage and personal lack of consideration. Particularly the intermarriage, appeared to contribute most visibly to the loss of tradition, but a closer look suggested that the story was perhaps more complex than that. Intermarriage brings together the disparate families and traditions of two individuals from different backgrounds. Traditions may be consequently lost to this new pair, but this does not mean that all traditions are. If anything, intermarriage simply enables one individual to choose among more traditions than she or he might otherwise have in her cultural armamentarium.

A very close friend of mine whose family originates from Venezuela is to be married to an American next summer. Traditionally in Venezuela, the woman keeps both her original last name and also takes on her husband’s last name. Now, living in the United States, she will take on her fiancé’s last name. Even though the situation irks me, as I am annoyed that women ‘have’ to take a man’s last name, there is a beauty in the transition of one’s tradition into a new one. Simply, my friend slipped into another’s line of transmission.

Globalization may be seen as a much more extended, version of intermarriage. Throughout the processes of both Globalization and legal intermarriage individuals experience interaction and integration, making deals or promises, trading and investing. Just like intermarriage, sometimes globalization is looked upon as an imperialistic approach to conform everyone’s culture; to ‘advance’ it. There is some bad to this, some truth; but, there is also some good to focus on.

Because of globalization, now it is not just the United States of America that might be considered a melting pot. Countries all over the world are exchanging their traditions and beliefs with each other at a fever pitch; we are arguably all connecting a little bit more than we used to. And it makes sense that we would. In a world that is constantly evolving, in which new technologies and jobs are being created every day, won’t we have to find a way for tradition and globalization complement each other? Isn’t that a whole tradition in itself: Humans working together and connecting from around the world? What is tradition anyway, and what makes it anathema to globalization – or vice versa? IS the continuance of tradition simple to “Stay Pure” or “Create a Rarity”? Why the versus? Can’t the two complement each other? I vote yes!

Doesn’t the ability of traditions to evolve make them even more special than their oddity or exoticism in their original forms? Just like the evolution of humans, cultural beliefs and customs evolve and twist and turn, and future generations will look back on it all and probably wonder what the big deal is to everybody now. Globalization at its finest, incorporates and appreciates all cultures. The humans working for international trade and investment companies are hopefully taking that to heart.

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Written by Rachael Bogdans

I am a recent graduate from Grand Valley State University where I studied Film/Video and Anthropology. My goal is to serve the world with communication of and about other cultures; the many different practices, alternatives to cooking and medicine, and to enlighten those who may have suffered from xenophobia.

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