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Each country has its traditions and its customs. Colombian culture is diverse and colorful. The anthropologists who are involved in the study of human condition give a definition to the word culture as “the traditions and customs transmitted through learning that governs the beliefs and behavior of the people exposed to them”. This paper touches upon the culture of Spanish-speaking country, namely Columbia. The film Maria Full of Grace represents “a window into the culture” of Columbia. It is known that by means of culture we can learn much about customs, behaviors, everyday practices, worldviews, and beliefs of a group of people under study. According to this broad anthropological sense the culture of this or that group of people shows us such aspects as interpersonal relations, family structures, class and race relations, ways of communicating, body language, dress, arts, crafts, traditions, festivals, religion, politics and economy. The paper is organized in such a way that it is divided into three sections. The first section of the essay touches upon the central issue of the film. The second section represents the most important points taken from the film concerning the Spanish-speaking culture: interpersonal and family relationships, customs, religion, food, music, politics, economics, and class and race relations. In conclusion the main points of the essay are summarized.
THE CENTRAL ISSUE OF THE FILM MARIA FULL OF GRACE
Our life is full of troubles and difficulties. Sometimes we come across the inescapable situations which make us perform rush acts. However, not all the people can cope with their troubles. They are often at loss and cannot come to the right decision. The main character Maria Alvarez, a girl of seventeen years old, could escape all the troubles which were on her way and could make a right decision to stay in the USA and start a new life. (Sarris)
This young pretty girl had a great deal of personality and was prone to stubbornness and brave decisions. She had good relations with her friends but sometimes was at odds with her family. In all the situations Maria listened to her heart and was not afraid of the consequences. Being pregnant she was not afraid to go to a foreign country with 62 pellets in her stomach and to earn a rather large sum of money. This was her first step to start a new life in a new country where she will be able to bring up her child. (Sarris)
She went to church and, may be, the Blessed Virgin Mary directed her to find the way out of the situation. Just imagine what kind of life Mary would have if she stayed in Colombia. Poverty, a small baby on her hands, problems with her family, work at a flower plantation, a young man who married her without love – Mary did not deserve all these things. The central issue of the film is to show the fate of a young girl who was directed by God to change her life for a better one. (Maria Full of Grace)
THE MAIN POINTS FROM THE FILM MARY FULL OF GRACE WHICH REPRESENT THE SPANISH-SPEAKING CULTURE
It is very interesting to find a great deal of examples from the film Mary Full Of Grace which show the Spanish-speaking culture, namely the culture of Columbia. We know that Columbia is a part of a Latin-American culture but it has its own characteristics. From the history we know that Columbia was influenced by the Spanish culture which left its marks in Colombian life. (Arts and Culture of Columbia)
Economics. Using the information given in the film, we can easily define the economical situation in the country. Maria lives in a small Colombian City which is represented by small houses, dirty streets, poor residents, unemployment, high prices for lodging, low salaries. That is why we can conclude that the economics of the country is at low level. Maria, the main character of the story, worked at a flower plantation and got poor wages. This money was not enough for her family which consisted of her mother, grandmother, her sister and her nephew.
Food. We can see that Maria and her family could not allow to eat expensive food. Bread was the main meals. Sausages were a delicacy for Maria. Several episodes show that her boyfriends Juan and Franklin bought her some flat cakes which were sold everywhere in the streets of her town.
Family Relationship. The relationship in Maria’s family were strained. Her sister was left alone with a baby on her hands. She was not satisfied with her life. She did not work and all the quarrels among the sisters were connected with the finances. Maria gave a part of her salary to her sister and mother. Nevertheless, we can see that Maria loves her family and in New York she asks Lucy’s sister to call to Colombia. She was anxious about her family. The drug-dealers could kill all her family if she ran away. However, at the end, in New York, Maria decided to stay in the United States and start a new life.
Interpersonal Relationship. There are several examples of interpersonal relations in this film. Maria and Juan, Maria and Lucy, Maria and Blanca, Maria and Juana. The bright example of interpersonal relationships of Maria and Juan. She understands that the young man does not love her. But she informs him of her pregnancy. When he says that he is ready to marry he, she refuses him. The reason is that she does not love him. He insists on the marriage and brings her the example of her sister who stayed alone. Maria pays no attention to this. She knows Juan is not the man of her love.
Religion. Religion plays an important role in the life of the main character Maria. The episode in the church proves the fact that Maria is a religious person. She prays in the church and asks God and the Blessed Virgin to help her and her unborn child. For Colombians religion is very important. Maria has a cross on her neck. There was a cross on the wall of Fernando’s room in New York. Fernando was a representative of the Spanish Community in New York who helped Maria and Juana and advised them to return the cocain capsules to the drug-dealers as soon as possible. Maria did not have an abortion. She knows that her child will be happy in New York. Her new friends will help her with her job, the doctor will help her to control her pregnancy.
Customs. The customs of the Colombian people also were shown in the film. Thus, Juan, a boyfriend of Maria, says said he cannot live in the house of his wife after the marriage. It is their tradition to take a young wife to the house of a husband.
Music. The music is represented by the Spanish song and dances. We can see Maria engaged for a dance by a young man and she likes music and dances. We can see that the Colombians prefer Spanish music. It is a part of their culture.
Politics. The politics in Colombia is shown by the following episodes in the film. We can see that the drug business is flourishing in the country and the government takes no measures concerning this issue. Unmarried mothers do not get any payments from the state. Maria’s sister is an example. The level of wages is low. The government does not pay attention to the levels of payment. There is unemployment in the country. Maria had to go to Bogota in order to find a job.
Class and race relations. Class relations are represented by the episode on the flower plantation where it was forbidden for Maria to go to the toilet. The owner made Maria and other girls work long hours. Race relations are shown in the episode when Colombian girls were made drug mules and their stomachs were used as a place for hiding the drugs.
In conclusion, I should say that the film Maria full of Grace is a good example to get to know the culture of Colombia. It can be easily used as a window into the culture. I think it is a good chance for anthropologists to learn more about the people and culture of Colombia. It is known that Colombian culture is considered to be a store house of several cultural influences: Spanish and African cultures. Spanish culture is connected with the colonizers and African culture is connected with slave trading in the country.(Colombian Culture)
These facts can be observed in the film too.
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