Monday, January 24, 2011

Essay on Cultural Identity

Essay on Cultural Identity

A cultural landscape is defined as the natural landscape as modified by human activities and bearing the imprint of a culture group or society; the built environment. As Carl Sauer stated, "The works of man express themselves in the cultural landscape. There may be a succession of these landscapes with a succession of cultures. They are derived in each case from the natural landscape, man expressing his place in nature as a distinct agent of modification". The cultural landscape then is subject to change either by the development of a culture or by the replacement of cultures.

By studying the area around my house I found that the intersection of Glendora Avenue and Arrow Highway includes the elements of a business and family life. The intersection includes some various cultural identities applying to different ethnicities. First we will answer "What is cultural identity?"

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By culture, we understand the wholeness and variety of all the manifestations of society on the local, regional, and national level with which people live. Cultural Identity is the perceived character of a place or a people, based on these cultural manifestations. It is both inherited and constantly evolving. It creates local distinctiveness and a "sense of place".

For example, I easily observed the cultural element, language. At the Seven-Eleven store, I heard people speaking mostly English and Spanish. Occasionally, I would also observe other languages being spoken. This informs me that the majority of the people who live nearby the store are either American or Mexican. The store Seven-Eleven also offers a variety of foods, another cultural element, and Lotto tickets, thus in a way uniting the different types of cultures that come as consumers. Another example of food is the two restaurant chains, McDonalds and the Taco bell/Pizza Hut combination. At McDonalds, I observed that all ages of people come and eat but it also has a small play area, which serves as a point of leisure time for children and parents to relax. That same play yard stands as a meeting area for children to interact with other kids of the same ethnicity or other. Next-door at Taco Bell, I observed mostly youth gathering there to eat and socialize. The one thing that both these fast-food restaurants share is the soft Цdrink, a traditional element in the American culture. Another example of the cultural element food is Alberto's Mexican Food Restaurant. Here I could easily recognize components of the Mexican culture from food, language, music, and visual arts. Inside the restaurant I saw paintings that are influenced by the Mexican heritage and heard Mexican music. The menu is also printed in English and Spanish, thus conducting commerce in two languages, which states that this business serves different ethnicities. The restaurant, Alberto's Mexican Food is also an example of how the past is different from the present. Prior to Alberto's Restaurant, a Greek family diner and an American hamburger diner once existed for a period of time. In this same lot many different cultural identities have come and gone drawing many different groups of people.

Across the street to the north I saw a medium-sized business structure that consist of four separate stores. I first observed Diamond Gas Station, which provides gasoline, an essential part of everybodyТs lives. Besides the gas station there is an auto repair shop, J & B Leisure Products, and Samo's Smog Check Station. They are all commercial based business that carry and perform standardized items of everyday life conditioned by the total cultural mix. Until now, I have observed commercial structures. The majority of the intersection is business based but behind the Seven-Eleven structure exists the Glenwoods Apartment Complex. Furthermore, across the apartments is the Arrow Glen Manor Mobile Homes. They are both examples of a built environment, the landscape created by humans. They are both structures built for families that are unable to afford houses. Not only does it serve as housing but as a document of the history of culture and achievement in architecture that testifies to the nature of the society that produced them. This area once used to be forested but has been inevitably influenced by the technologies applied. It serves as an example of how the area has been altered by human beings. There has been a greater demand for housing due to population increase in the area.

The cultural element, transportation is very vital in this small area. In each corner I saw cameras monitoring the traffic. These cameras were installed about a year ago, thus meaning the flow of traffic and number of accidents has increased. I also observed city busses, which commutes people from their homes to businesses or other places. There were two bus stops that I saw, one directly in front of Taco Bell, and the other just prior to the entranceway of the Seven-Eleven structure.

Based on these observances, I would say the socio-economic character of the area is middle-class. One example is the use of city busses. Some people have their own means of transportation but others are not able to afford a car and the various expenses that go along with it. Another example I observed is the types of cars driving through the intersection of Glendora Avenue and Arrow Highway. The majority of the cars were mid-range priced economy cars. They were not your luxurious fancy high Цpriced automobiles that you would see on Sunset Blvd. or Rodeo Drive. Another factor is the type of greenery I saw along the street. In high-income areas one would see sidewalk vegetation very neatly trimmed and in most cases, the same type of tree used along the street. In the area I observed I found that each commercial and residential structure planted its own vegetation. There were also a number of weeds along the fencing of the City of Glendora Water reservoir. This shows that there is not enough income to well maintain the flowers and trees that are planted in the area. Another example that supports that this area is middle-class is the apartment and mobile home residential structures. One would not find an apartment complex in a rich neighborhood behind commercial stores. The reason I do not clarify the area as low class is because the crime rate is low, and I did not see gangs gathering at either one of the fast-food restaurants. I also did not observe homeless people wandering the street, looking for leftover food, or sleeping on the sidewalk.

I would have to say based on my observations that the present cultural imprint is pretty well established and fairly permanent. The commercial buildings are those that have been there for a while and are well established. The fast-food restaurants will always have middle-class people dining at their places because it is affordable. A gas station is always needed because as people travel they need to fill their cars with gasoline. Apartment complexes and mobile homes are always a sign of middle-class residential areas.

Upon my observation I have learned that a cultural landscape report guides decision makers by helping them assess cultural resources and making them aware of the significance of historical events within the landscapes. With this information, we are better positioned to make decisions, which preserve and protect the area, in question. Culture is produced or made over time. It is something to be explained by examining the processes and system of the world. Culture is also a product of human practice-what people do in their everyday lives that is a changeable system of flows and networks. Cultural landscapes involve power relations and contestation and are real and material as well as social relations. In conclusion, cultural identity may be expressed in many different ways or manifestations, and the intersection of Glendora Avenue and Arrow Highway is a good example that celebrates the richness and diversity of the cultural identity in the area.

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