Patty Aragon Memorial Scholarship

Patty Aragon Memorial Scholarship 2017

Katreena Yeneza was the first recipient of the Patty Aragon Green Chile Classic $500 scholarship. PAGCC’s mission is to build community in the Pagosa Springs and the southwest while celebrating our cultural heritage through local cuisine and music. “Without cultural heritage, the hard earned lessons and magnificent stories of the past would be lost,” wrote Yeneza in her essay reminding us that our cultural past is key to shaping a promising future.

Cultural Heritage: The Quilt of Beliefs and American Fundamentals

By Katreena Yeneza

2007, the third grade, an innocent conversation revealing the differences between my peers and myself, embarrassment. When conversing on the topic of typical breakfast foods, I quickly realized the stark contrast between my classmates’ bread and cereal and my morning rice; it became increasingly apparent that eating rice for breakfast was an uncommon practice. As my peers demanded answers regarding my breakfast choices, I proclaimed my consumption of toast in the morning. I prayed for their belief and acceptance, my lie a desperate attempt to conform. Nearly ten years later, a senior in highschool, I have embraced the cultural differences between myself and my peers. Now, upon receiving bewildered looks due to my differing cultural practices, I explain that these differences must be respected and appreciated. Where I once perceived personal inferiority, I now acknowledge my vibrant Filipino history and determined immigrant background. A nation accepting of my background, the United States is an intricate quilt of nationalities, joined together by the threads of cultural heritage.

Amidst a sea of 318 million American people, cultural heritage provides a means of community and connection. Individuals belonging to one cultural heritage are subject to similar upbringings, creating a deep sense of unity through shared beliefs and practiced customs. For many individuals, cultural heritage is a strong determinant in his or her identity. The traits valued and encouraged in one culture define what an individual perceives as societally correct, emotionally important, and physically appealing. The existence of cultural groups allows the exchange of unique ideas and influenced opinions. Individuals trade information from their own culture for a snippet of another. This permits the exchange of cultures, allowing anyone and everyone to explore the fundamental similarities and differences that have allowed cultures to continuously evolve and inspire future generations. Cultural heritage shapes future descendants by borrowing from the lessons and traditions of previous generations, the identity of each culture passed down from parent to child. The shared connections allow an otherwise distant relationship between the future and past to harmoniously coexist in the timeless field of cultural heritage. It permits individuals to understand their own histories as cultures, the battles and triumphs that have shaped the defining moments of the present. Cultural heritage is the accumulation of generations of knowledge, stories, and history, all waiting to be discovered by individuals of that culture. Without cultural heritage, the hard-earned lessons and magnificent stories of the past would be lost. The strengths of having multiple cultural backgrounds for ideas and innovations would stagnate as the lack of cultural heritage leads to a dull and monotonous habit of thinking and living. Everyone, retreating to the ideologies developed in identical upbringings, would present the same unimaginative solutions to the problems we face as a species. Variety, the spice of life, would cease to exist, leaving  nothing but a tasteless routine on humans’ instinctively adventurous taste buds. The uncertain excitement of visiting a foreign country or establishing a new friendship is removed as the enrichment of differing cultural backgrounds merge into one unanimous blur. Natural precautions prove crucial in preserving cultural heritage and its influence. The process of preservation within each cultural community begins on a singular level, every individual acknowledging the value of cultural heritage and consciously working to preserve it. My own childhood have served as trials to this testament.

Prior to living in America, I resided in Kuwait, a country allergic to foreigners and their cultural heritage. Life in Kuwait consisted of constantly being reminded that as a Filipino, my status in society would never compare to that of a Kuwaiti citizen. My parents, understanding  the repercussions of these unfortunate societal standards, moved to America, the land of opportunity, in search of a better life. Arriving in the United States, the American culture proved to be a colorful mosaic of cultures. My race was not one of inferiority, but, rather, a mere factual difference. I continue to admire the raw beauty of cultural acceptance and curiosity in this country, attempting to embody this core value in everyday life.

Embracing this mindset, I decided to learn the two Filipino languages of my childhood, Ilonggo and Tagalog. I practice by speaking both languages to my parents, watching Filipino film and videos, and translating English text to these languages. I believe that understanding the language of a culture opens an infinite number of possibilities in connections and understanding. As my life progresses, I plan on maintaining my connections to my cultural heritage. I will continue incorporating various aspects of daily Filipino life into my own routines. By doing so, I hope to educate people on various aspects of my culture such as food, traditions, and cultural manners. Besides these daily incorporations of Filipino culture, I plan on involving myself in organizations that embrace my culture such as the Asian Unity organization at the University of Colorado Boulder. I wish to give back to the communities that have greatly impacted my upbringing and outlook on life. I intend to frequently visit my native country, the Philippines, in order to maintain a physical connection to my culture. Immersing myself in the Filipino culture will permit me to see my own heritage develop and influence other individuals. As a Filipino Asian-American, I hope to be a bridge between the two cultures. My unique status allows me to be a participant of both cultures; I will be a translator of both Filipino and American, advocating for the interaction and connection between the two. Perhaps this makes me an orphan, neither fully Filipino nor fully American, neither kababayan or naturally American, a product of cultural marriage. Each culture is a parent, and I am the child, whose unique cultural footprints are evidence of the synergy between the two, creating a definite path in the future of cultural heritage.

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