Christmas, Coca Cola, and Cultural Imperialism

The damp gloom outside tells me it’s getting to be Christmastime, and that makes this the moment to talk about cultural imperialism. Because without the Spanish Empire we wouldn’t have the holiday at all in Mexico and because of the way it’s so easy to see American cultural influence in this season.

First, the term. One of the consequences of globalization is the diffusion of dominant cultures. The colonial age imposed western socio-political forms on the rest of the world by force. Most every country on Earth now runs on a western model, be it socialism, communism, or some form of constitutional republic, because of colonial expansion.

Pretty good coverage

Pretty good coverage

Today, that diffusion continues through economic, rather (or largely rather) than physical, domination. The United States’ dominion over world markets allows its goods (and by extension, its culture) to penetrate every one of its trade partners. It’s no surprise that you can get Marlboro Reds and a Coke in the remotest corners of the globe. The result of our flooding of the world with our production is the seep of our culture into every other, often to the exclusion of the original.

Not such a bad thing, proud Americans might think. The foreigners could use a little of our gumption, et cetera. Problem being that we usually export the worst parts of us—soft drinks, fast food, discount beers, shitty consumer goods, the endless drivel of our network TV. It’s part of why much of the world has so low an opinion of our culture (“You don’t have a culture” crops up). And what we might take to be passive diffusion often aggressively displaces the traditions and practices of other countries. Which brings us back to this season in Mexico.

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