15.12.2015Armenian by Birth
About the Hybridity in Diaspora
Hybrid beings. This is what I call us. We are molded by fusions of different cultures. Others and the Armenian one. In the world, the cases of cultural hybridity abound but few coincide with the characteristics of what happens with Armenian diaspora.
Ever since the genocide, a bunch of cultures, values, and memories of the Armenian people have come to different regions with the heritage of every refugee. There they settled themselves. There they constructed churches, schools and social centers. Little Armenias.
These were cradles of several generations. They were the bond with a distant territory that become known by what was transmitted through different means. Because of this, life in the diaspora consisted of mixed cultural practices that produced new and complex hybrid forms. The local culture and the Armenians turned into ingredients that culminated into one product. Therefore, it is what we are: the result of heterogeneous cultures that were mixed.
I grew up in Argentina. I have been absorbing its cultural forms ever since my childhood. Armenia meant a collection of built-in knowledge, but it was rooted out geographically. My life was constantly bouncing between two different cultural styles, yet it was all conjugating into only one creation. I was the combination of what ensues from two languages, two beliefs, two idiosyncrasies, two ways of relating. A continuous exodus between the place to which we belong and which we were born. In this consists the mental crusade of the diaspora.
We celebrate the independence of Armenia in the central square of Cordoba city, take mate with Armenian desserts, take Armenian flags to the court where our team plays football, invite our not Armenian friends to eat our food. Do we force all of that? Of course not! It is a spontaneous merger, nobody projects it. It began when our ancestors settled in these countries 100 years ago and it continues being constructed today. It is an extraordinary way to be, and although it sometimes transports our identity to indefinite paths, it without a doubt enriches us.
I enjoy this conjunction. I play with it, give it form and mold my own identity daily. Our cultural forms were transported across thousands of kilometers, along dozens of years, fused with other styles and still today they are present. Is this not a curious phenomenon?
For this merger, where features from both cultures have survived, I have learned to adopt these two territories as my own. Life in Armenia is so familiar to me, and sometimes feels like life in Argentina. I do not feel any cultural gaps here. On the contrary, I feel like I am a part of the construction of this country, and simultaneously I also feel so Argentinian.
This hybridity that accompanies us make life more special. I am comfortable with it. But mainly, I am inspired by it because it allows me to think about the ways in which our diversity can help advance concepts like unity, tolerance and equality between different cultures.
By Betty Arslanian
Photo by Scout Tufankjian
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