A dominant culture, which is characterized by its wide prevalence and strong influences, always exerts huge influence and imposes pressure upon minority cultures. In the memoir, When I Was Puerto Rican, Esmeralda Santiago recalled her childhood both in Puerto Rica and America, and revealed how American culture affected Puerto Rican culture and traditions. In the 1940s, people in Puerto Rica experienced intensive cultural impact from their powerful neighbor country, America.
In Santiago’s hometown, people were given lectures about health, food and sanitation by the experts from America, and invited to eat breakfast in American style. Under the influences of American culture, more and more Puerto Ricans changed their lifestyle and, to some extent, gave up their traditions. Moreover, students in the school were asked to learn English, which was like a key to open the door of American culture. Since China opened to the west, there had been a tendency that Chinese youth generation showed more interests in English than their native language.
In some cases, the reason that one culture becomes dominant is a large number of people following it; however, people from minority cultures face pressure and exclusion from majorities in the dominant culture. When Santiago moved to Santurce, people in her school were mean and rude to her. Under the influence of a dominant culture, people from other cultures are expected to adjust their lifestyle and change their language, and face pressure from the dominant culture as will be shown using evidence from When I Was Puerto Rican.
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Culture and traditions from America gradually spread and prevailed in Santiago’s hometown, and many Puerto Ricans experienced a transition of the lifestyle. Compared with Puerto Rica, America was more advanced in almost every field; meanwhile, Americans attempted to promote their culture and traditions to the country they considered less developed. After attending the presentation about food, sanitation and health form the American experts, Puerto Ricans gained an opportunity to try something new in their life.
For instance, after being given scientific demonstrations about human teeth and the importance of sanitation by the experts, Santiago’s mother made a change. Santiago stated that, “At home Mami gave each of us a toothbrush and told us we were to clean our teeth every morning and every evening” (68).
Obviously, the mother tended to accept the new lifestyle that was used to be viewed as a cultural invasion from America, and she took steps to adjust their life in an American way. The change she made gave people a glimpse of how the dominant culture affected Puerto Ricans, and how people appeared less stubborn and reluctant to the new lifestyle.
In addition, children were teamed to have American breakfast. In contrast with people’s prejudice that American food was disgusting, Juanita Marin’s reaction towards the breakfast was surprising. “‘This is great! ’ she chirruped in her ready voice, lips wet with anticipation… ‘Wow! ’ she oohed again” (76).
Juanita Marin showed her satisfaction with the exotic food, which reflected her preference to American food, and implied her expectation of the new lifestyle. Therefore, the transition of the lifestyle took place while people were under the influence of the dominant culture.
Other than the change of lifestyle, people are expected to adjust their language when they face the cultural impact. As Americans proceeded to exert influence on many fields in Puerto Rica, they also attempted to make a change in language. In school, Santiago and her classmates were given the English class. The teacher taught students English through song, like “America the Beautiful. ” It was obvious that the teacher tried to make a connection between English and people’s impression of America. By this way, students were encouraged to speak English and learn about America. ‘They (Americans) want to change our country and our culture to be like theirs. ’ ‘Is that why they (Americans) teach us English in school, so we can speak like them? ’ ‘Yes. ’” (73).
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Santiago’s father confirmed that Americans intended to promote their culture to Puerto Ricans by teaching people English. Once people altered to speak English, it represented that they accepted American culture. As American culture prevailed in China since the 1980’s, more and more Chinese showed their eagerness for English. Most importantly, youth generation preferred learning English to learning Chinese.
When young people thought English was a cooler language than Chinese, speaking English became fashion. The phenomenon reflected the prevalence of American culture in China, and people’s admire of the dominant culture. Sometimes, a dominant culture is a culture followed by a large majority of people; however, people from other cultures may be imposed on pressure and discriminations. After Santiago arrived at Santurce, she struggled to assimilate into the new environment because people were very mean and rude to her.
Everywhere she went, she was different from the local people. People labeled her as a Jibara, but “in Santurce a jibara was something no one wanted to be” (39).
“‘What a Jibara,’ children jeered when I (Santiago) recited a poem in the dialect” (39).
Having been a person not from the dominant culture, Santiago were treated in a disrespectful way. It could be imagined that Santiago suffered from the discrimination. “Already I (Santiago)’d be singled out in school for my wildness, my loud voice, and large gestures” (39).
Other than showing contempt for her, people shunned her.
Being marginalized and excluded form the many social groups, Santiago experienced hardship and felt pressured. Therefore, pressure and discrimination are what the dominant culture imposes on people from other cultures A dominant culture is a culture that is the most widespread, influential and powerful within society in which multiple cultures are present. While the dominant culture expands its influence, other cultures can experience different kinds of impact from it. People experience a transition of their lifestyle under the influence of the dominant culture.
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By the promotion from American experts, Puerto Ricans developed a hobbit of brushing teeth and showed their affection of the breakfast in American style. In addition, people are expected and led to change their language. The young people both from Puerto Rica in the 1940’s and current China were encouraged to learn English, which of is the symbol of American culture. Finally, Having been different from most local people who represented the dominant culture, Santiago was subjected to discrimination and exclusion. Thus, under the influence of a dominant culture, people from other cultures change their lifestyle and language, and face pressure.