The Influence of External Forces On Latin American Communities

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No person, community, place, or culture exists in a vacuum, immune to the influence of outside forces; the effect of these forces is pervasive. This holds true in communities worldwide, including two in Latin America – Felicidade Eterna, Brazil and Sonqo, Peru. Donna Goldstein’s ethnography on Felicidade Eterna, Laughter Out of Place, demonstrates how life in a Brazilian shantytown is the direct result of a wide variety of external forces, such as history, government policies, and the class system. In the ethnography The Hold Life Has, Catherine Allen shows how no community is impenetrable to the influence of outside forces, even one as culturally strong as Sonqo. Though Felicidade Eterna and Sonqo are impacted in very different spheres,…show more content…
Regardless, as will be discussed, these forces are a prevalent and pervasive factor contributing to the livelihoods of the poor. Sonqo, Peru, the subject of Allen’s ethnography, is in sharp contrast to Felicidade Eterna as the changes seen and discussed are recent. Sonqo had an extremely strong culture, one that seemed impenetrable to unwanted change caused by outside forces. The people of Sonqo, the Runakuna, hated the outsiders, the Mistikuna, and a common theme throughout the ethnography is the Runakuna existing in isolation from the Mistikuna. Maintaining isolation was a necessity as “[t]he Incas’ demands for cultural purity are stringent” (Allen 2002:186). Their culture was incredibly strong, characterized by ancient rituals such as the passing of the coca, the prevalence of reciprocity, the worship of the Tirakuna, and more unique traditions that seemed so well-established that their disappearance was doubtful. The Runakuna tried to resist the outside forces (Allen 2002:186), but as will be seen, these forces were too strong and change was inevitable. As seen in Laughter Out of Place, many of the outside forces that affect life in Felicidade Eterna are worked into the system, such as the minimum wage and the legal
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