Living with Cultural Diversity in America

June 22, 2008
By Steven Li, Miami, FL

America is truly a “melting pot.” Living in Miami, I experience this blending of cultures everyday. And having attended a nearly all white school in Illinois when I was younger, I vastly prefer high school in Miami, where students come from all backgrounds. Some Americans may not be aware of it, but the integration of cultures in America has changed popular culture, music, and daily life for the better. Each culture adds different values and a different perspective to form the entirety that is American life.

On the weekends, my neighbors sometimes decide to serenade the entire block by turning up their traditional Spanish music. I don’t mind, however. Even though I do not understand most of the words, the message that the music delivers is universal. The soulful blend of vocals and acoustic guitar speaks of heartache, while the fiery trumpets and trombones speak of passion. No other music delivers so direct and powerful a message about love than Hispanic music, a music which has influenced modern hip-hop. Every afternoon, I hear on the streets the lively, hip-hop beat of “Reggaeton,” a music that blends Jamaican and Latino influences.

But the influence of different cultures is hardly restricted to music. Not only have contemporary movies began incorporate elements from diverse cultures, foreign films have also become more popular in America. These films broaden our understanding of the struggles and triumphs of cultures around the world, connecting every individual to the global community.

In particular, foreign films from China have been important to me; they offer me the opportunity to discover my roots as well as to see the struggles that my culture experiences today. The film Raise the Red Lantern gave me a glimpse of old Chinese society and the struggles women experienced, while Hero showed me the aesthetic aspects of my homeland and of Chinese martial arts. But more importantly, these films offer the same insight to every individual that views them.

Not only in film has the merging of different cultural influences benefited Americans. In Miami, the culinary heritages of the world converge. As a lover of unique foods, I am grateful for this diversity.

Last summer, I experienced my first taste of authentic Greek cooking at the Daily Bread and I enjoyed it very much. Although the ingredients were not unusual to me (chicken, olives, lettuce, tomatoes, lemon juice, bread), the way the ingredients were prepared to make the Greek dishes was unique.

Underneath every culture, the people remain the same; they experience the same tragedies, sufferings, and triumphs that every other person does. But each culture offers a new perspective, a new lifestyle, that when experienced can expand our own knowledge and familiarities; in the process we become more empathic, and we mature as citizens of a global community.

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