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Maintaining Cultural Pride- without Superiority This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

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I have come to dread answering one of the questions that I am asked most: what do people in the United States think of Chile? It's difficult to tell them that people in the United States hardly think of Chile. That people, or some people, may know where Chile is on a map (when I told someone I was going to Chile, they thought it was in Europe), but nothing more.

It is difficult and almost embarrassing to tell this to a culture whose TV programs are 80 percent in English with Spanish subtitles. A culture who listens to music from the United States, Canada, England, Korea, and other Spanish-speaking countries. A place where there are German bread stores on every street. It is difficult to tell people that although they may know about TV and music and food and culture around the world, it's not the same in the United States.

The so-called 'melting pot' of people that live in the United States do not look beyond the pot. And not just with Chile, with the world. I believe a feeling of superiority plagues the United States. I remember One day in APUSH we were discussing the dropping of the bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Many of those who agreed with the decision to drop the bombs justified their response awith, "the United States needed to show it was in control." I realize war strategies have nothing to do with culture, but the mentality of superiority and 'control' is still there. And I despise it.

Chile, and I believe many other countries, have this worldwide influence while maintaining their own culture.
September 18th, one of the most important holidays in Chile, marks the meeting of the first government body in 1810, and the beginning of the process of independence from Spain. People celebrate all month long. One of my favorite aspects of the holiday is the national dance, the cueca. Every Chilean knows how to dance the cueca. And they're proud of it. There are festivities at school where students come in traditional clothes of huasos and huasas (pictured above), and dance the cueca. In the malls, in the streets, at home, everyone dances the cueca. And a cueca song can always be found on the radio. It's often taught at school in gym class, and because of this, even a 6 year old knows the basic steps of the dance. And many better than me.

In addition to the cueca, traditional foods are eaten in impressive quantities. Empanadas (bread stuffed with meat, vegetables, and cheese), sopaipillas (fried bread), choripanes (a type of sausage with bread), and a mountain of other meats are among the most common foods. My family spent las fiestas patrias in the countryside with friends and family and lots of food. We played fútbol, danced the cueca, and Tío Marcelo climbed the degueña tree (a type of mushroom) and used a long pole to knock the degueñas to the ground. Abuelo Orlando told stories of the Pinochet era, and we drank chicha, a clearish red liquor made from grapes. The law requires the flag of Chile to be hung in every home and building.

All of this culture, purely Chilean culture, exists even with all the knowledge Chileans have of other countries. A pride for their country is strong. A pride without superiority. Viva Chile.



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