Cultural Identity: Characteristics, Elements, Formation, Loss

The  cultural identity is a series of traditions, values and customs that make up the idiosyncrasies of a particular community or a specific group of people. Through cultural identity, people can build a sense of belonging, which is essential to preserve the peculiarities of each nation.

Furthermore, having knowledge of a cultural identity allows individuals to be aware of otherness; that is, through knowledge of this concept, human beings develop the ability to recognize the other, which encourages curiosity about other cultures and traditions. For example, cultural identity encourages healthy tourism.

cultural identity

Mexican cultural identity is quite present in today’s society. Source:

Likewise, a citizen can choose the specific social group to which he wants to belong. This is because within a community different subcultures may emerge with different approaches to traditions and values. Therefore, an individual can choose the branch of his cultural identity with which he feels most comfortable.

According to several authors, the construction of an identity arises thanks to the dialectic created between the individual and society. Although the collective image is essential to understand a culture, identity is built thanks to a process of internalization and individuality that each person must carry out in order to know the aspects with which they will identify.

It has also been established that a cultural identity can not only be studied as an isolated phenomenon, but can also arise as an opposition to other identities.

Consequently, some cultural identifications can be defined in opposition to others. This means that a certain group of a certain community usually defines itself by accentuating the differences it maintains with other cultures or with other societies.

If not controlled through education and certain institutions, cultural identities can be harmful, as they could promote xenophobia or other kinds of discrimination; This affects the development of a nation and hurts people. However, a well-cultivated cultural identity brings many benefits to a society.

Article index

  • one


    • 1.1

      Cultural identity as a multicultural and diverse concept

    • 1.2

      The preservation of history through an interest in culture

  • two

    Elements of cultural identity

    • 2.1

      Identity, culture and man

  • 3

    Formation of cultural identity

    • 3.1

      Cultural identity within the formative processes

  • 4


    • 4.1

      Causes of identity loss

    • 4.2

      Consequences of loss of identity

  • 5

    Cultural identity in Mexico

  • 6

    Cultural identity in Peru

  • 7

    Cultural identity in Colombia

  • 8

    Cultural identity in Spain

    • 8.1

      Relationship between Spain and Latin American countries

  • 9



Cultural identity in Sierra Leonean girls.

“The dangers of being born a girl in different parts of the world” Stephanie Sinclair. Recovered from:

The word “identity” comes from the Latin word identïtas , and is used to state the set of traits and elements that define or differentiate a group of individuals from the rest of the human groupings.

A cultural identity is characterized by being influenced in a notorious way by the environment in which the individual develops, as well as by its historical and cultural context.

For example, the American continent would not be the same if the conquest of these territories by the Europeans had not occurred. The cultural identity of Latin America is very marked by the miscegenation product of this discovery.

Cultural identity as a multicultural and diverse concept

Cultural identity can be subdivided into other categories, among which stand out personal, collective and gender identity, among others.

In other words, the identity of cultures is influenced by all other identities; For this reason, when this concept is discussed or studied, it is usually related to other definitions such as pluriculture and multidiversity.

Similarly, cultural identity is characterized by building social ties despite the individual differences that constitute each person.

This concept allows to establish kinships within a community, which brings as a consequence not only the feeling of belonging, but also familiarity and empathy among the members of the group.

The preservation of history through an interest in culture

Cultural identity contributes to the preservation of the history of societies -especially in those that are literate, since they record events through the written word-, since groups feel the need to safeguard the memory of peoples, which encompasses traditions, values ​​and religions, among other aspects.

To preserve cultural identity, it is necessary for individuals to know why the importance of folklore and traditions is important: through the knowledge and understanding of these, a person can be more effectively linked with their culture and with their nation.

Elements of cultural identity

Cultural identity, as its name suggests, requires two main elements for its gestation to be possible: identity and culture.

Thanks to these phenomena it is possible to establish a concrete definition. To develop these two aspects requires both individual and collective interaction.

Identity, culture and man

In the case of culture, it represents a fundamental pillar within any society, which also needs a historical context, an empirical or tangible elaboration and a symbolic interaction.

Culture is transmitted from generation to generation through oral and written literature, which makes it possible to build the sociocultural framework of the communities.

Together with the elements of culture and identity is the figure of man and the individual, without which it would not be possible to establish any of these parameters. Through the unconscious and conscious contribution of each person towards their culture, the sense of belonging and the protection of identity can be guaranteed.

Formation of cultural identity

There are many ways to instill the formation of cultural identity, such as through educational institutions and the home; It can also be introduced through history and intrahistory (the unofficial story, which is told by the common people and transmitted orally).

According to some authors, the concept of identity begins to take shape in the individual at the moment in which he realizes the existence of differences between him and others.

Other writers take a more collective approach, explaining that identity has a national slant fostered by origins, roots, and beliefs. In other words, this approach suggests that identity arises out of selfhood, while the former argues that it arises through opposition or difference.

However, both positions converge on the idea that the influence of the environment is necessary for the formation of cultural identity, either within a large cosmopolitan city or a small town made up of tribes.

Cultural identity within the formative processes

Identity within the range of culture is formed through history, as well as through artistic works such as monuments, some books, and paintings.

A key way to build this identity is through language and language, since they are one of the main factors that must exist for that link to be generated between a group of people.

Currently there is a series of educational programs that form the cultural identity of individuals from an early age. They achieve this through different academic and leisure disciplines that involve the cultural theme, such as traditional music and dance or the subjects of history, language and literature.

The image of the instructor or teacher is essential within any academic training, especially in the construction of identity.

These figures have the duty to foster in young people an interest in the economic and social progress of their group; This is achieved through the active participation of each of the members of a specific community.


In our day, many cultures and communities face the loss of their values ​​and traditions. This can occur due to a series of causes that are related to new technologies and some geopolitical positions.

Causes of identity loss


Globalization is one of the main causes of the loss of cultural identity, despite the fact that it has brought many benefits to the entire world, such as the ease with which information reaches journalists and other entities that are responsible for recording data. invaluables.

Globalization has affected the cultural identity of communities as it influences the way in which the individual engages with their roots. For example, when embarking on a trip, people become aware of the convergence points of cultures, leaving aside in some cases what differentiates them.

However, traveling can also be a way of understanding the otherness of other civilizations. All this depends on the focus of each person, who after traveling can decide whether to put aside their roots or cultivate them and keep them with them.

Thanks to globalization, European cities are increasingly similar to Asian or American cities, which causes the use of certain clothing, food or customs that contribute to cultural identity.

Through television and other media, the youngest learn how they are supposed to act according to certain globally accepted social standards, leaving aside the ancestral values ​​of their culture.


Migrations have occurred since the beginning of humanity, whether due to climatic, political or social conditions.

However, in many cases it is unknown how this can influence the different cultures that make up the planet. For example, the children of migrants often abandon their traditions to adopt the values ​​of the new host country.

Consequences of loss of identity

The loss of identity brings with it a series of consequences that can affect – positively or negatively – the development of communities.

One of the consequences of the loss of this identity consists in the creation of more homogeneous spaces, which generates a disappearance of the features of a certain culture.

The consequence that most interests scholars and linguists is the loss of languages ​​since, by forgetting the culture of origin, individuals also shed their native language. This leads to the death of many languages.

At present, English, Spanish and Mandarin are the most widely spoken languages ​​and have gradually displaced other languages ​​much less frequent or used by small numbers of speakers.

For example, the group of people who speak Icelandic is very small, which forces speakers to use another language, with English being the most viable option.

Cultural identity in Mexico

Mexico is full of cultural diversity, since its culture is the result of a synthesis between the great pre-Hispanic civilizations and Western idiosyncrasy. Because of this, some religious and traditional issues combine indigenous aspects with Catholic leanings.

Currently, Mexico has undergone notable changes in the way of structuring its cities and its way of life, assimilating in a notorious way to the standards of Europe and the United States.

This tends to cause conflict not only in Mexico, but in most Latin American societies, since it is not a homogeneous identity.

When talking about the cultural identity of Mexico, reference is not only made to artistic manifestations, but also to a series of social, political and even sexual traits that have shaped the way of being of Mexican people.

Consequently, Mexican culture stands out mainly for defending what remains of pre-Columbian civilizations above what was imposed by other western societies.

All the patriotic values ​​of the liberal cause, whose leanings still hold true, are also upheld. This manifests itself in deep nationalism.

Cultural identity in Peru

Palace of Justice of Lima

In Peru, a situation similar to that of Mexico occurs, since it is also a cultural synthesis between different cultures. However, Peru retains a greater amount of indigenous population.

Therefore, there are still reminiscences of the acclaimed Inca culture, whose traditions are maintained in some towns in the region.

Consequently, the different ethnic components are intertwined with the Peruvian identity, which influences the way in which citizens are introduced to learning about its history and other social aspects.

Despite the spiritual and traditional legacy left by the Inca Empire, in the same way the Peruvian population faces globalization, so many Peruvians adapted to a fast, consumerist and aligned way of life. This can trigger the loss of the main identity traits of this nation.

Cultural identity in Colombia

Colombia, as a coastal country, is one of the regions in which miscegenation took place most notably. This did not happen in that way in the territories of Peru, due to their geographical characteristics.

Thanks to this overwhelming miscegenation, Colombian society is even more varied and rich. In addition, due to its position on the globe, it has had a greater influx of immigrants, which generates greater diversity in its idiosyncrasy.

In addition, Colombia also has a percentage of indigenous population, whose folklore has been attuned to the features of the more westernized Colombian societies.

Some authors establish that the Colombian cultural identity is in danger, since foreignness – together with its colloquialisms, music and religions – alters the essential characteristics of this Latin American nation.

They also argue that the loss of identity arises from a collective unconsciousness, where citizens want to adopt new ways of life, leaving aside their original traditions.

Cultural identity in Spain

The Iberian Peninsula represents a challenge for researchers and historians, since a remarkable number of cultures have inhabited this territory that have left their mark on Spanish culture, especially in linguistic and political aspects.

Spain has been inhabited by Muslims, Visigoths, Romans and even Carthaginians, which makes this country a network of different positions and cultures. In order to maintain its identity in the face of the different invasions —especially that of the Arabs—, the Spanish culture chose to settle on the Catholic religion.

Relationship between Spain and Latin American countries

The above resulted in Spain not going through the Renaissance episteme, but passing directly from the Middle Ages to the Baroque inclinations.

It should be noted that no other European country experienced the Baroque as the Spanish did. This had a notable influence on the development performance of the colonies. In fact, in Latin American societies that baroque tendency of the Spanish can be perceived in art and culture, mixed with some indigenous aesthetics.

In other words, the religiosity and mysticism typical of the Spanish Baroque were effectively established in the American colonies. Because of this, all the aforementioned countries are related.

One of the main characteristics of Spanish society is that it is made up of communities that speak different languages, as a result of the invasions explained in the first paragraph.

This has led to a series of identity conflicts that even today generate different political and social confrontations.


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