25.2.08

identify

…been thinking a lot about identity lately. Quite a few of the bloggers in this little community are either born in other countries and eventually have found their way to North America, or perhaps have spent much time living abroad. I wonder what about these similarities brings us together across the internetland? People like Gaz from Raw Waters in Cedar, Patch from Patchies Hideout, P from Foulweather, and there are probably more, all come from diverse backgrounds and all share a passion for surf among other things.

I have always struggled with my own identity. As a toe headed kid growing up in the foothills of the Andes Mountains I was often called El Gringo even though I ate arepas and loved queso frito and enpanadas. Then as a teenager in Bartow, Florida I heard it all; from spic to stupid skateboarder. “No we didn’t come over on a banana boat.” I loved, lived and breathed skateboarding from about age thirteen until I started college and began surfing. It wasn’t just t-slids and slappys that attracted me to skateboarding. It was also the FTW attitude that I’d see in my skate buddies and Thrasher Magazine.

Now as an adult I still struggle with cultural identity. I have lived in four countries, speak fluently in Spanish and English and can chat Jamaican Patois as good as any “white” man. I have an easy time of flowing in and out of conversation with just about anyone and feel comfortable meeting people of various cultures. On the other hand, I’ve never comfortably identified with any specific culture or sub-culture. Why is this important you may ask? And I’m not sure that I can answer that. It seems that it should be important as we are social beings, unable to stand alone no matter how our American ideology of “the Individual” tells us differently.

Below is a clip of a Cuban street artist doing a charcoal portrait of a woman from his barrio on a building in Barcelona (gracias Baldiri por el detalle). He raises the question of cultural identity. He talks about people claiming their neighborhood, and not in gang sort of way, he’s talking to grannies, but in a sense of belonging. His work is important because it is fleeting. Like life is fleeting. Or like the exhilaration of a good surf is fleeting. I guess it’s best that I don’t think too much about my identity and instead devote time to experiencing this one life that I have. To getting to know the way my body moves through space, the way that my fingertips strike the keys, the way the eggs flips when it’s perfectly fried, the way my bike tires feel when I’m speeding though a turn picking the perfect line.

8 comments:

Foulweather... said...

Gaz from 'Raw Waters' and Gazelle from 'Leaping Beauty' are two very different dudes. Both righteous in their own way...

OK, now I cleared that up, I can read your post.

ras said...

fixed the above error.

Mark Johnston said...

Loved the post, In the past three years have made about twenty border crossings. Having returned back to the west coast I am still processing how living in Asia has impacted my identity--not sure I will ever figure it out, but it is good to have something to think about in the lineup. Thanks for the thoughts

Patch said...

Ras, great write up.

When you mentioned arepas... man, I used to love arepas de huevo, fond memories of eating those on the beach in Cartagena. Also, having a cuban mom, I was fortunate enough to eat cuban home cooking on a regular basis. :)

BTW, when Foul Pete from foulweather sent the pdf of 'The Beach' awhile back, I purposely held of reading anything except proofing my stuff, so I can sit and really dig into all the 'zine. I look forward to reading and viewing everybodies entries into that mag.

lawless said...

At the same time, alot of people get caught up with thier "identity" and it pigeon-holes them and limits them from experiencing things outside of their normal ranges. It's not so much an identity as it is core values and beliefs that you carry with you as your identity shifts and changes.

Gazelle said...

Interesting stuff. I was born in the US and have lived here most of my life, with the exception of some long & short travels, and two years living in Japan. Although I feel relatively at home in Oregon, what I have trouble with in the US is the very character of the lifestyle. The rushing, the time spent driving, the cost of living, and the lack of simple, meaningful community ritual. I'm reading a great book now entitled "On Mexican Time." Man, it's making me want to chill out and put on some huaraches ASAP. And it's also helping to fuel the dream my wife and I have to build a little family compound where we all help each other to slow down a bit and start smelling the roses. We hope to make it a reality in about 3-4 years...

Tadeo Baldiri said...

Primo,

Me encanta el escrito.

Y por cierto, la ciudad del video es Barcelona.

Un fuerte abrazo.

Foulweather... said...

As a Welsh kid growing up in he Middle East and now Oregon, I've had the same issues. I used to dwell on nationality and culture a lot more. But my politics tend to ignore international borders and the definition of sovereign states.

I'm more interested in 'sense of place.' I accepted where I was from and where I'm supposed to end up, when I stood on a particular spot and completely accepted my mortality. Sounds pretentious but in other words, I belong where I would be comfortable dropping dead. And that is on the edge of cliff on the Gower Peninsula looking out into the Atlantic.