Culture, or Humanity’s Different Masks

Written by: Gabriela Taveras


"What are you?" Is a question I've been asked numerous times, whether in historical Rabat, or in Paris’ bustling nightlife.


This inquiry made me wonder:

why can't we rephrase it?

We are, after all, brothers and sisters of the same human race, distanced by formerly vast geographic lines that can now be crossed in hours.


Does this question represent a fear of the unknown, or a way of showcasing our desire to be comprehended by others?


I was born in the United States, and raised in the Dominican Republic. I represent the example of others who lie at the crux of multiple homes, frequently being asked to side with one more than the other.  

Growing up, I was lucky to travel to multiple countries and, at my parents’ behest, step out of my comfort zone. I decided to transfer schools prior to beginning my second year of high school, which acclimated me to the nuances of transitions and new surroundings. That first change was a primer for my move to the United States, immediately before my undergraduate studies.


I’d had Starbucks and Chipotle, so I thought I’d grow accustomed to American gastronomy.


I’d sipped Tim Hortons, roamed the Mosque of Cordoba, and taken in the blue and white shores of Santorini, so I thought a culturally complex city like New York would be easy to delve into.


But it was more than that. The nearly five years I spent in New Jersey and New York had me question my identity, and my place in the vast puzzle that is our world.


Was I more American than Dominican, or vice versa? Was I destined to feel like an outsider, not quite understanding the prominent individualism of one culture, while shunning the oversharing of the other?


Did living in the Land of the Free for less than five years prior to college make me a fraud? And did the way my mother taught me to speak made me less of a Dominican due to not having an “accent”?


These inquiries reveal that the questions aren’t the problem, but rather why they surface in the first place. Is it wrong to embrace different lifestyles, and assimilate histories unknown or irrelevant in our quotidian surroundings? Is it selfish to claim love for more than one country, as if our hearts are meant to be restricted in cages?


I am here to tell you that culture is a cornerstone, one that can help you feel anchored to this beautiful Earth, this “Pale Blue Dot” Carl Sagan spoke of. It’s what keeps you from feeling lost in strange and exciting new lands, the first thing you share when it’s time to start anew and set roots somewhere else.


Culture is what makes finding, and building, a new home easier.


It’s what we leave behind when succeeding generations take over, and leave this world better than we did.


Because in this world where everything is cyclical, culture is what makes us part of a greater whole.


The views expressed in this blog are my own, and do not necessarily reflect the policies or views of the SIETAR BC. SIETAR BC monitors posts and comments to ensure all content complies with the SIETAR BC Guidelines on Blogging.