Creolization

nuyorican by George Garrastegui Jr

Bastard Tongue by Serifcan Ozcan

Creolization [kree-uh-lahy-zey-shuhn] is the process of two or more cultures mixing, as happened in in the Americas between people of indigenous, African, and European descent. Creolization is traditionally used to refer to the Caribbean but can be extended to represent other diasporas. The mixing of populations creates a cultural melting pot which ultimately leads to the formation of new identities. Creolization also is the mixing of the ‘old’ and ‘traditional,’ with the ‘new’ and ‘modern.’

Furthermore, creolization occurs when participants actively select cultural elements that may become part of or inherited culture. Social scientist Robin Cohen states that Creolization is a condition in which ‘the formation of new identities and inherited culture evolve to become different from those they possessed in the original cultures,’ and then creatively merge these to create new varieties that supersede the prior forms.

According to ethnographer Charles Stewart the concept of creolization originates during the 16th century, although, there is no date recording the beginning of the word. The term was understood to be a distinction between those individuals born in the ‘Old World’ versus the ‘New World.’ As consequence to slavery and the different power relations between different races ‘creolization’ became synonymous with ‘Creole,’ often of which was used to distinguish the master and the slave. The word ‘Creole’ was also used to distinguish those Afro-descendants who were born in the New World in comparison to African-born slaves. The word creolization has evolved and changed to have different meaning at different times in history. What has not changed through the course of time is the context in which Creole has been used. It has been associated with cultural mixtures of African, European, and indigenous (in addition to other lineages in different locations) ancestry (e.g. Caribbeans). Creole has pertained to ‘African-diasporic geographical and historical specificity.’ With globalization Creolization has undergone a ‘remapping of worlds regions.’ or as Orlando Patterson would explain, ‘the creation of wholly new cultural forms in the transnational space, such as ‘Nuyorican’ and ‘Miami Spanish.’ Today, creolization refers to this mixture of different people and different cultures that merge to become one.

Creolization as a relational process can enable new forms of identity formation and processes of communal enrichment through pacific intermixtures and aggregations, but its uneven dynamics remain a factor to consider whether in the context of colonization or globalization. The meeting points of multiple diasporas and the crossing and intersection of diasporas are sites of new creolizations, which feed the ongoing debate on the ethics of the sharing of the world. For example, food, music, and religion have been impacted by the creolization of today’s world. In the culinary arts, the blend of cooking that describes the mixture of African and French elements in the American South, particularly in Louisiana and in the French Antilles have been influenced by creolization. This mixture has led to the unique combination of cuisines known as creole cooking. Jazz music took its roots from the dialogue between black folk music in the U.S., that is derived from plantations and rural areas and black music based in urban New Orleans. It developed from creole music that itself has roots in the blues, parlor music, opera, and spiritual music. The popular religions of Haiti, Cuba, and Brazil formed from the mixing of African and European elements. Religious beliefs like Voodoo in Haiti, Santeria in Cuba, Shango in Trinidad, and Candomblé in Brazil are products of creolization.

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