The Globalization of Ethnicity
The phenomenon of Globalization is traditionally thought of as an economic force… free trade, capitalism, and world markets. Along with the globalized flow of money comes the flow of culture and ethnicity. Steps are being taken towards a true “global community.” The results of the creation of this global community is positive in that it allows for greater understanding, perhaps tolerance, and the creation of an entirely new type of culture that knows no borders. However, the way in which urban culture is incorporating these newly introduced ethnicities is disturbing and this destructive trend can be seen in most large urban centers, such as Phoenix, Arizona. It is also interesting to witness the resistance to this homogenization and appropriation of culture among the neighborhoods and stores found in South Phoenix.
We hear less talk of the American “melting pot” because we have seen the dangers of blending cultures to create one American “ideal.” These dangers (such as the loss of culture) can be explained by the very essence of globalization, which often creates a single globalized culture in cities like New York and Sao Paulo. These urban cultures are eerily similar to one another in their worship of McDonalds, fast paced technology, and anything Western or Americanized. Interspersed within this scene of neon lights and circuit boards we find a culture that is struggling to keep its head above the tidal wave of Western influence.
But what is happening at home, in the U.S., in Phoenix? Globalization finds a cozy home in our large cities. As Phoenix’s immigrant population grows, there is an increasing appropriation of culture some might see as harmful to the various ethnicities that make up our population. Because Globalization encourages a type of melting pot of cultures, immigrants are encouraged to adopt a version of the “American dream” that forces them to forget their language and replace their ethnic background with a sterile, homogenous model of American ness.
The effort to appropriate and change culture is evident in Phoenix’s reaction to the increasing Latino population. In order to make Latino culture more palatable to surrounding whitewashed cities such as Scottsdale, much of Latino culture has been reduced to token restaurants such as Dos Molinos or Taco Bell. The resistance to this appropriation and reformulation of Latino culture can be found in a South Phoenix restaurant, Bahia Restaurant that we visited while documenting businesses in the area. Instead of cheese covered Tex-Mex rice and beans, Bahia’s plates are covered with entire smoked fish and fresh mariscos as street vendors travel from table to table selling leather wallets and religious imagery. My group mates were amazed at the glass bottles of Coca-Cola that read “Hecho en Mexico, D.F.”
The entire plaza surrounding Bahia’s is a bright pink example of the resistance to the Globalization of culture. The walls of the music shop next door are covered with strictly Mexican music.
The isles of the Rancho Grande supermarket are filled with traditional Latin American goods that are watched over by the Virgen de Guadalupe herself.
Despite the attempt to sterilize Latino culture in the United States, immigrants in South Phoenix have succeeded in recreating their “homeland” along the streets of this Globalized city. This could be seen as an attempt to preserve a culture that is being pushed into the American melting pot.