Canar Vs. Westernization
The concept of westernization is defined as a process whereby non-western societies, such as the Canari people, come under the influence of “western culture”, in such matters as industry, technology, law, politics, economics etc. Westernization has been an accelerating and influential power across the world in the last few centuries, and after reading “ Canar, a year in the Highlands of Ecuador”, it is apparent that this influence is seeping through the boarders into Canar and the Highlands of Ecuador. How much it has influenced is debatable.
Westernization is usually a two-sided process which western influences and interests themselves are joined by a wish of at least parts of the effected society to change, in the hope of attaining western life or some aspects of it. The Canari people and their culture are one side of the process and westernization is the other. The Canari people have felt the influence of certain aspects of westernization. Using tools such as their commerce, cultural aspects, and coercion. They have found somewhat of a balance by embracing factors of the western world, at the same time, neglecting the unwanted influences.
The concept of commerce, one of Canards tools used when dealing with westernization, primarily expresses the fairly abstract notion of buying and selling, where as the traditional ways of trade may refer to the exchange of a specific class of goods. Commerce provides “currency” which in turn provides the major advantage to commerce compared to trade, because it overcomes the “double coincidence of wants” necessary for barter trades to occur.
The Canari culture was once a place where the people “could survive off of subsistence farming, combined with bartering and labor exchanges”(Blankenship.102), which was a traditional way of life for the indigenous peoples. Then a level of currency was developed as the foregrounds of accepting westernization to increase the countries overall economy. Years had passed, with issues of government corruption and poor falls of the exchange rate on the “Sucre”. These commerce related issues eventually led to the permanent closing of many national banks, and millions of dollars disappearing.
After the dust had settled from the economic corruption. The Canari people were presented a drastic measure that promised a stop of inflation, stabilization of the economy, and an encouragement of foreign investors. Ecuador was going to adopt the “dollar” as its currency, this being a major influence of westernization, “as many saw this as an expansion of U.S influence in Ecuador”(Blankenship.103). A massive indigenous uprising occurred which resembles the culture neglecting the westernized influence. However, as time passed the dollar currency went into effect, with a little portion of acceptance being showed by the indigenous peoples.
This shows us that although the Canari people and Ecuador originally neglected westernization and the dollar. With time, it seeped into the economy and was forcefully accepted. Although as we take from the novel we realize parts of the westernized economy are still rejected as, “ no one trusts the banks now, so most of the people we know keep their money in their pockets or, in some cases with the women, hidden in their skirts or in some mysterious place deep in their bosoms”(Blankenship.104). This rejection of banks ties in with the next tool used by the Canari people, which are their aspects of culture, and how romanticism is relevant as hey miss the past and yearn for their traditional life style.
The Canari people to accept and reject the concept of westernization use the role of culture and its many aspects. More then anything, westernization is an influence that can change many diverse cultures into becoming all very similar, because humans all meet the same biological needs, but differ culturally in how these needs are met. Making one realize that westernization might eliminate the different ways a cultures needs are met, and form how these needs are met into a universal understanding. The Canari culture is an excellent example of how the westernized influence can be accepted or rejected by a culture.
The Canari culture is a very indigenous culture that has many traditional ways to living life, and the people are proud of their pure culture and find no need for change, or extras, but to keep life simple. To get a better understanding of this concept one must look at Judy Blankenship’s experiences, and how she made progress with her photography.
When Judy first arrived in Canar, she soon realized that photography was not a norm to the people in Canar; therefore it acts as an influence of westernization. From the novel one can see that the many people and their traditional beliefs reject this piece of the western world. “ My camera stayed in my bag that day, but this was a defining moment that I would never forget. In asking to take a photo, being denied, and acknowledging the refusal, the terms of my relationship to this place and its people even at this early stage, had been established.(Blankenship.4)”
We can see that Judy and her photography was somewhat rejected as part of westernization, but as time went on and a stronger relationship was developed between Judy and the Canar culture. They eventually showed acceptance, when Judy taught a photography class and much interest was shown. This established acceptance, and that Canari people were gradually accepting photography into their culture so they could use it to reap the benefits of this technology. Simple benefits such as capturing cherished moments of their lives, and this gradual acceptance, can relate the next tool used by the Canari people to accept and reject westernization, which is the concept of Coercion.
Coercion by definition is the practice of compelling a person to behave in an involuntary way by use of threats intimidation or some other form of pressure or force. Coercion my typically involve the actual infliction of physical or psychological harm in order to enhance the credibility of a threat. The threat of further harm may lead to the cooperation or obedience of the person being coerced.
The concept of coercion and manipulation is one of the key tools that are used by the culture of Canar, and its people, to handle the strong influence of westernization. From the book we can see many examples of how the people use coercion to manipulate situations to accept as well as reject certain aspects of westernization. A key example of this is when the government of Ecuador establishes price hikes on such things as cooking gas, bus fares, and gasoline prices. As we read from the book, this results in a national protest and youth uprising. “When I read the newspaper tomorrow I will learn that five thousand campesinos, trade unionists, teachers, and students marched in Cuenca today as part of a national protest against the price hikes, or alzas, that were mandated by the government…”
The price hikes established by the government is an aspect of westernization as it is an effort to ‘improve’ their economy, such as those in the western world. We can see that these protests and uprising by the youth, which have become a proud tradition amongst the people, is a way for them to reject the drastic westernized changes that are being forced upon them. This relates to coercion because the people have manipulated the situation, using violent and non-violent ways to eventually benefit themselves and their culture.
Due to this manipulation, “ the government eventually signed an agreement with the national indigenous leaders,”(Blankenship.105) to come to an agreement on the drastic price hikes, ending the strike. This agreement shows that even though the Canar culture initially rejected the economic influences of westernization, they eventually through coercion, came to an agreement with westernization so they could find a balance between the need to improve their country’s economy, while still living their traditional lives.
In conclusion to what has been written. It is apparent that the Canari Culture has felt the effects of Westernization and its influences. Using Commerce, cultural aspects, and coercion as their tools. They have become successful in embracing certain factors of westernization, as well as neglecting the negative influences. Through this process they were able to find somewhat of a balance and keep the effects of westernization as a two-sided process, and were able to use the power that has been instilled in their hands as people of their culture.
– Judy Blankenship. Canar; A Year In the Highlands of Ecuador. University of Texas Press, 2005.