Peruvian Diaspora: The Global Trafficking of Culture

Diaspora: The Global Trafficking of Culture

In these last days of Passover, with its themes of exodus and exile, an article published in Spanish last month in Long Island Al Día about how diasporas work offered some relevant food for thought. Although the writer, Jorge Yeshayahu Gonzales-Lara, focuses his attention on the Peruvian diaspora, much of what he says also applies to other immigrant groups:
Diasporas, seen as transnational phenomena, do not remain pure or completely faithful to their places of origin; rather their cultures contain elements of both places, the original and the [new] home, from which mixture a hybridization results.  That is to say the subjects of the diasporas characterize themselves as cultural, linguistic, ethnic, religious and national hybrids and heterogenes.  They acquire multiple identities in the dimensions of the social spaces they inhabit.  Also important is the multicultural interrelationship in which they incorporate themselves, the interracial and inter-ethnic relations (interracial marriages, cultural changes and fusions, linguistic differences and approaches, the linguistic diversities of Spanish).  The interrelation with other ethnic groups is another social element that must be taken into account in studies of immigration; this interaction produces social mobility.
It’s not just people that emigrate, Gonzales-Lara explains —
immigrants bring with them much more than their suitcases.
Though there was a time when migrations were defined as the flow of individuals and work forces, today it is clear that we must enlarge the concept to incorporate the mobility and interchange of cultural goods, information and material resources.
Upon emigrating, in his or her own displacement, the individual carries with him- or herself not only his or her person and labor, but also his or her culture and social capital.  Thus, migrations are nothing more than a particular form by means of which a community’s social networks, social capital and culture expand and consolidate in transnational and ever-expanding and ever more distant spaces.
Gonzales-Lara breaks down the basic characteristics of a diaspora:
1.     The dispersion from a center of origin to at least two peripheral places;
2.     The active conservation of memory, image or myth of the original homeland;
3.     The belief that the members of the diaspora will not be readily integrated into the new country;
4.     The intention to return to the homeland;
5.     The definition of oneself as part of a group on the basis of the relationships established – imaginary-economic, political or social – with the homeland and one’s national identity.
It is evident that the connection between the country of origin and the experience of discrimination in the new country are essential for the formation of a diasporic community, in a constant balance between difference and similarity.

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