Cultural Patterns

The task of describing a unique psychological profile of Colombians is impossible because of the country's diversity in geography, ethnicity, and socioeconomic conditions. For example, in the Andean Mountains social behaviors tend to resemble those of other Andean countries, such as Peru or Bolivia; on the Caribbean coast, people exhibit cultural patterns similar to those of other Caribbean countries such as Cuba, Puerto Rico, or the Dominican Republic. Differences in cultural patterns are influenced, among other factors, by the type of regional mestizajes, or mixes, of people. These result from variations in local Indian tribes, differences in the type of Spaniards that settled in different regions, and the presence or absence of African heritage in a particular area, in combination with other factors such as social class differences, academic achievement, and differences between urban and rural environments (Gutierrez de Pineda 1975a, 1975b; Lopez et al. 1983).

Nevertheless, some shared cultural values are translated into frequent behaviors. Colombians, on the positive side, tend to be hard working, family oriented, resourceful, creative, patriotic, entrepreneurial, generous, witty, joyful, polite, self-reflective, and spiritual. On the other hand, shame, low self-esteem, guilt, and a tendency to foster classism can also be found. Various attempts have been made to study the Colombian culture, and descriptions of socioeconomic characteristics and cultural patterns of specific regional groups have been made.

The most important work is the vast research of anthropologist Virginia Gutierrez de Pinedo, who described four basic "cultural complexes": Andean-American (central region), Andean Neo-Hispanic (western region); Negroid (coasts and river basins), and Mountaineer (Antioquian region). In her two major books, Gutierrez (1975a, 1975b) described cultural patterns that were subsequently corroborated by many other studies in the description of the Colombian traditional family. These patterns tend to show a separation of male and female roles, with signs of behaviors that have been described as machismo and marianismo in other countries. In traditional families the tendency is for the father to assume the role of the provider and for the wife to serve as the emotional caretaker of the family. However, we need to be aware that these traditional patterns are rapidly changing in a country where women, who are playing a more active role in society, have not only massively joined the labor market in the last two decades, but also are now attaining higher education at a rate equal to or higher than that of males (Rojano 1985a, 1985b).

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