Wherever you are in the world, a people’s perception of their national identity is always an interesting thing to observe. In every country there is a spectrum of patriotism across society, from those who hold high their country’s flag and sing the national anthem at the top of their lungs, to those on the opposite end who reject the idea of national borders altogether and view the nation-state as a construction used to divide the world’s people.
Of course, national pride and identity differs from country to country, and one way in which it differs is due to the role nations have played in global history. Something we have observed in the Latin American countries we have visited so far is that their national identities are strongly related to their independence from colonial powers. In every country, city and town we have been in, signs with names of liberators and dates of struggles for independence can be found on every street corner. Whole cities are named after national independence heroes and the biggest festivals of the year celebrate the anniversary of the countries’ liberation from their colonialist oppressors.
Despite what Farage might have us believe, this sense of national pride and identity is not something we as British people can ever relate to, coming as we do from a country with a history of colonising and oppressing lands across the world. So for us the expression of national identity in this Latin American context has been an interesting phenomenon for us to observe. It has given us another perspective on national identity, and although we can never personally relate to it ourselves, we have observed what it means to belong to countries that for so many years were controlled and oppressed by a European empire on the other side of the world, before undergoing a struggle to finally become independent nations.
However, despite the history and memory of their national independence, the people of Latin American countries do not always express their national identity through an anti-colonial sentiment or sense of regional solidarity. As is the case all over the world, there is certainly an ugly side to the patriotism here, one which creates divisions and hostilities between nations and cultures, and one which we have observed ourselves on several occasions.
Our observations of these complex and varied expressions of national belonging have led us to write this series of blogs, where we aim to describe how the citizens of Latin America view themselves and the diverse countries they call home. We will look at the varying degrees of national pride and patriotism in each country and critically examine the effects of such nationalism, both positive and negative. In order to get a cohesive overview of how Latin America’s national identities interlock and overlap, we would recommend beginning with the first blog in our series, which will focus on another level of identity and belonging in this region that goes beyond that of national identity: that of Pan-Americanism.