I came to the conclusion last year that Spanish culture only makes sense in the summer. The idea of championing room-temperature egg dishes (tortilla), massive amounts of salty ham, cold soup that can be easily chugged (gazpacho), mid-day naps, late dinners, hand-held fans…they can all be explained away by the oppressive heat that beats down on the majority of Spain. The slow pace of the culture in general (a “mañana” mentality, if you will) can also be explained away by the need to laze a bit in the 100+ degree months of July and August.
But then I realized that my judgment was flawed, in that a good bit of proud Spanish heritage is based on the cooler months as well (heavy stews, paella, and good red wines, to name a few). So why did I just assume the culture was defined by the hot months? Because my view, and, I’ll venture to say many Americans’ view, is shaped by when I’d visited here before moving. And I, again like many Americans, visited in the summer months.
This started me thinking about the way cultures think about one another, and how heavily influenced that thinking is by an inherent human desire to look for “the other.” It seems to run rampant in everyone I know. The entire reason, it seems, to travel for so many has virtually always been in order to experience something different, strange, truly foreign. Be it through the spice trade, the search for new worlds, or a quick jaunt to Paris for Spring Break, the human experience seems to demand the discovery of differences between people in different places, as though we seek subconsciously to authenticate the seemingly arbitrary borders dividing the cultures. In other words, rather than search for commonalities between cultures, it seems we seek to divide ourselves.
God help me, I have to cut this short and get back to the dick jokes before I break out into Imagine.