Identity: How is it forged?

By Dra. Margarita Mendoza Burgos

Several times I have been asked about the identity, especially if it is already incorporated into us and is unalterable or, on the contrary, if we are building it along the way. Definitely, our identity changes and is modeled with all the interactions we make with the environment, with other people and with everything that we put in our minds. Because, at the end, ends up being a unique trait, an unequivocal seal that identifies us.

We are one thing at birth, and another in what we become… The Colombian writer Gabriel García Márquez already explained it: "Their mothers give them birth: life forces them to give birth to themselves over and over again, to be modeled, to transform, to question (sometimes no answer) to wonder what the hell they came to earth for and what they should do on it. "

Without a doubt, a person who is isolated will be less flexible of mind than someone who explores the world more.. This is how what is learned in the formal education of each country will influence the growth of both individual and social identity.

But nevertheless, other factors - especially cultural- will end up chiselling our particular identity until it becomes unique. "No one can bathe twice in the same river. The river flows constantly and we inevitably change with it ", Heraclitus wrote.

It is evident that belonging to a certain ethnic group or socio-cultural group influences, at least in the nuclear aspect. Because if an individual of one ethnic group is raised and raised in a different environment, will forge its identity as a new hybrid product between its original culture and the social culture in which it is immersed.

A Pakistani who has never left Karachi is not the same as another fellow countryman who grew up and studied in England. Nor will the identity of a Salvadoran living in a rural area be the same as that of another who decided to emigrate and who has lived outside his country for more than a decade..

As individuals we can have an individual identity, that will be regulated by the prevailing social identity where we find ourselves. For example, Driving while intoxicated doesn't look so bad in Latino culture. But nevertheless, in other countries it is highly penalized, as a drunk driving is considered a potential weapon of destruction. That is why it is difficult for Latinos to understand that in Saxon countries this is a serious offense.

Yes, Latin Americans have a strong sense of belonging. But in small countries like ours, where governments have not bothered to adequately grow this sense of belonging, it may be less. For example, Salvadorans will find it easier to acclimatize to other nationalities with stronger roots. We can also suffer an identity crisis, and it will be up to us to imitate or reject those aspects of our original identity. Identity is much more than a card, a passport or a DUI containing the personal data. We are what we represent. Neither more nor less than our DNA.