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Cultural Memory

Jeanette Rodríguez
Ted Fortier
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    Cultural Memory
    Book Description:

    The common "blood" of a people-that imperceptible flow that binds neighbor to neighbor and generation to generation-derives much of its strength from cultural memory. Cultural memories are those transformative historical experiences that define a culture, even as time passes and it adapts to new influences. For oppressed peoples, cultural memory engenders the spirit of resistance; not surprisingly, some of its most powerful incarnations are rooted in religion. In this interdisciplinary examination, Jeanette Rodriguez and Ted Fortier explore how four such forms of cultural memory have preserved the spirit of a particular people.

    Cultural Memoryis not a comparative work, but it is a multicultural one, with four distinct case studies: the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the devotion it inspires among Mexican Americans; the role of secrecy and ceremony among the Yaqui Indians of Arizona; the evolving narrative of Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador as transmitted through the church of the poor and the martyrs; and the syncretism of Catholic Tzeltal Mayans of Chiapas, Mexico. In each case, the authors' religious credentials eased the resistance encountered by social scientists and other researchers. The result is a landmark work in cultural studies, a conversation between a liberation theologian and a cultural anthropologist on the religious nature of cultural memory and the power it brings to those who wield it.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79505-1
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    The single most important adaptation for the survival of the human species is culture. As we will develop in this book, discrete human cultures have survived a plethora of threats to their existence through their ability to interpret, adapt to, and resist hegemonic cultures that are more “powerful.” The very key to a species’ survival is its ability to adapt to rapidly changing conditions. The human species has survived, in a number of unique configurations, because of the elasticity of culture, which enables groups to access stored wisdom and ways of coping with diverse patterns of existence. The mystery and...

  6. 1. The Concept of Cultural Memory
    (pp. 7-14)

    How we remember past events has a profound impact on what we do and how we will live. While personal memory is the cornerstone supporting collective or social memory, memory cannot be understood apart from social forces. Religious, class, and family affiliations that form in cognitive and affective deliberations help construct the manner in which a memory will be interpreted.

    Thus, memory is transmitted by a people in their historical, social, and political context. In any given culture, it is the social group that carries forth, from generation to generation, that which they choose to pass on and, perhaps, that...

  7. 2. The Power of Image OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE
    (pp. 15-34)

    Our lady of guadalupe is a religious experience, but, of course, contemporary Mexican American devotees of Our Lady of Guadalupe do not enjoy a firsthand vision of her. Yet from their faith stories, it is undeniable that there is an encounter, a presence, and a relationship between them and La Virgen de Guadalupe. It is a vibrant daily occurrence. Even when this is not the case, the Guadalupe apparition is a primordial experience kept alive in the cultural memory of the community. This cultural memory is concretized in the Guadalupe image prominently displayed in many of her devotees’ homes. By...

  8. 3. The Power of Secrecy and Ceremony YAQUI RESISTANCE AND SPIRITUALITY
    (pp. 35-54)

    In the early evening, as the hot desert air slowly cooled, we gathered with the Yaqui in their dirt-floored temple. Women with shawls over their heads sat toward the back, men toward the front of the building. Everything about the structure seemed from another era: the whitewashed adobe, crudely repaired in places; its rustic look; the array of icons and statues. The drumming was slow and rhythmic, the people, serious and focused. The Maestro began the song, and the women, with the ends of their shawls covering their mouths, responded in chant. It is a chant style that is heard...

    (pp. 55-83)

    On a cool spring morning in March 1980, a priest presided at Mass in the chapel of the Sisters of Providence in San Salvador, El Salvador. It was a simple ceremony, a daily routine, and the beginning of the day for the nuns who administered the hospital on the outskirts of the city. As usual, the doors to the little chapel were open, and the smell of the flowering trees, the sounds of the birds, and streaming sunshine filled the sanctuary. The enclave on the top of this hill was a little oasis in the midst of the brutal civil...

  10. 5. The Power of Syncretísm/Inculturatíon THE TZELTAL MAYA OF CHIAPAS, MEXICO
    (pp. 84-106)

    This was a very difficult chapter to write, and it has taken many different directions as we attempted to describe and explain an emerging phenomenon among the Tzeltal Maya of Chiapas, Mexico. We found ourselves limited in the language of the Indian people, making us largely dependent on native speakers who are also adept at Spanish. This restricted much of our ability to see into the nuances of the culture and to fully enter into many of the discussions that are presented here. Nevertheless, this ongoing dilemma of translation of cultural ideals and meanings is the very heart of our...

  11. 6. Fínal Thoughts
    (pp. 107-112)

    The concept of “culture” is subject to a plethora of definitions, but we have chosen to view culture as ideational. The usual definition is fused with notions of function (how the culture operates to maintain life), history (how the culture understands its place in time), politics (the alliances that bond people to elements of power and governance), and all the other traditional paradigms of the culture concept. By choosing to examine the role of memory in the ideational sense, we have maintained that cultures at their very core are built on an all-pervasive spirituality that provides values with emotionally hued...

  12. APPENDIX 1. Summary of Post-índependence Polítícal Movements ín Mexíco
    (pp. 113-118)
  13. APPENDIX 2. Short Summary of Internatíonal Events and Theír Impact on Indígenous Polítícal Movements
    (pp. 119-120)
  14. APPENDIX 3. The San Andrés Accords, or the Law on Indían Ríghts and Culture, 1996
    (pp. 121-124)
  15. Notes
    (pp. 125-132)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 133-144)
  17. Autobíographícal Statements
    (pp. 145-146)
  18. Index
    (pp. 147-154)