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Latin American Influence on Western Culture
Hola! Do you know what that means? Even if Spanish is not your first language and even if you've never taken a class or read a book on the Spanish language you likely know that Hola is the Spanish word for Hi/Hello. Why? It's partly because of a large Latin American influence on Western culture. Let's discuss how Latin American traditions and ideas have influenced Western Culture, particularly in the USA.
Language, Food, & Performing Arts
Hola! Well, by now you should definitely know what that means. Hola, adios, and so many other simple Spanish phrases are now a part of our language thanks to the influx of people from Latin America. We even say these words without thinking about it because they are ingrained in our psyche.
Other Spanish and Latin American words that are second nature to Western societies are taco and burrito. That's because Latin American food has made its way into Western culture. You can find tacos and burritos in Taco Bell and a zillion Mexican restaurants in a town near you.
Another great food we can largely thank Latin Americans for ingraining into Western society is salsa. Of course, salsa is also a type of dance that's popular in many Latin American countries. It, or some of its movements, can also be found in many music videos, including those of famous Latin American musicians like Shakira & Ricky Martin. Be it music, dance, or something else, Latin America has also influenced the performing arts in the Western world as well.
Religion, Politics, & Economy
The role of religion, politics, and the economy are also heavily intertwined with Latin American influence on the US. Some politicians appeal to Latin Americans because they both share deeply religious Christian roots. Other politicians try to court Latin American votes because they are liberal in their stance towards illegal immigration of many Latin Americans into the United States. Some politicians want to build walls and others want to build bridges.
Further still, both sides of the political aisle in the U.S. can clearly see the great impact Latin American people have had on the U.S. economy. Some argue that Latin Americans have helped make the U.S. productive by providing cheap labor while others deride free trade agreements with Latin American nations as taking jobs away from the U.S. Regardless of what's true or not, it's obvious that Latin America and Latin Americans pose a great influence on Western religion, politics, and the economy.
There are, of course, plenty of other influence of Latin America on Western culture. Take, for instance, popular culture. How many times have you seen the face of a slightly bearded middle-aged man on a t-shirt being worn by a Westerner of European descent? That man was probably Che, Ernesto Che Guevara, an Argentine Marxist revolutionary leader who is intricately tied to Fidel Castro of Cuba. Some see him as a symbol of the fight against tyranny and oppression and that's why they wear clothing adorned with his likeness. Others wear it because it's 'in' and they have no idea who he actually is. Others still would never dare touch anything with his name or likeness since he killed many people or they don't' support his communist ideologies.
And what about famous phrases like Yes we can found as often on t-shirts and memorabilia as Che's face? You might remember it as the phrase uttered over and over again by Barack Obama and his supporters in the 2008 presidential election. It may just be the single most famous and influential phrase in American political campaign history. But the origin of this phrase bears nothing less than Latin American roots. For Yes we can is the translation of Si, se puede, a phrase used by Cesar Chavez. Cesar Chavez was perhaps the most important Latin American civil rights activist in modern history, if not all time, as he fought for the right of so many Latin Americans toiling in U.S. farms and industries.
Let's be a bit industrious about this lesson and not toil over what we learned too much. Instead, let's quickly summarize what we learned. Latin America and Latin Americans have greatly influenced Western culture through:
- Language, with simple phrases like Hola.
- Food, such as your favorite burrito.
- Performing Arts, perhaps you can't get enough of Cristina Aguilera.
- Religion, as most Latin Americans are Christians.
- Politics. Do we build a wall on our border or a bridge?
- Economy. Many Latin Americans take up jobs no one else in the U.S. would want to perform.
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