When a community receives and acquires the cultural forms that belong to another culture , to later assimilate and integrate them into its culture, leaving aside its own cultural practices , what is known as transculturation occurs . This concept was developed by the Cuban-born anthropologist and ethnologist Fernando Ortiz Fernández (1881-1969) to designate the process of transformation of two groups when they come into contact . This process can refer to the relationships between a regional community and a national community, between a marginalized community and a dominant community, a minority community and a majority community.

What is transculturation?

Transculturation refers to a process through which one social group progressively adopts the cultural practices of another social group and appropriates them . This process can take place with consent , as is the case of immigration to another country or by imposition or force, as was the case with colonial conquest or as it could occur, for example, in periods of war or conflict.

It is important to note that although transculturation has often taken place in conflictive contexts, it does not always imply conflict . It can also be a phenomenon of cultural enrichment.

  • Characteristics of transculturation
  • Story
  • Transculturation process
  • Examples of transculturation

Characteristics of transculturation

  • This process takes place through the contact of two different cultures.
  • In the current era, transculturation takes place as a consequence of waves of immigration and the phenomenon of globalization . In the past, the transculturation process occurred mainly in the colonization period.
  • This process can take place directly or indirectly, with the consent of the community that adopts the new culture or in an imposed way.
  • It is a process that occurs gradually. In a low degree of transculturation, one’s own culture or some main aspects of it are preserved while some aspects of the culture of the dominant group are assumed as a natural response of adaptation or survival. In a high degree of transculturation, there is a radical process through which the external cultural identity is assimilated to a point where the own culture disappears.


The concept of transculturation is used for the first time by the Cuban anthropologist and ethnologist Fernando Ortiz in 1940 in his work Contrapunteo del tobacco y el sugar . The scholar makes use of the concept to contrast it with the Anglo-Saxon term acculturation and specify that in addition to contact with a new culture, transculturation leads to the loss of one’s own culture .

Although Ortiz privileges in his approach to transculturation, in the elements of white (European) and black (African) cultures that coexist in the Cuban population, the author also alludes to immigrants of Asian and Mexican origin who lived in Cuba during this time. Indeed, Ortiz uses the term based on his perceptions of Cuban society as a mixture of European, African, Chinese and indigenous forms. Also, from their perspective , the term encompasses conflict relationships between oppressors and oppressed .

Later, it was used by the Venezuelan writer Mariano Picón Salas in 1965, from a more historicist point of view.

Later, the Uruguayan critic Ángel Rama , takes up the concept in 1982, to explain the way in which Latin American authors incorporate various elements from popular, rural and indigenous cultures into their work . Rama shows how these authors mix these elements with literary techniques from the European and American avant-garde.

Transculturation process

Transculturation is the transformation process that an individual undergoes after adopting a new culture. Although transculturation can develop without conflicts, normally, the process reveals some confrontations because the host culture suffers the imposition of some foreign cultural values.

The anthropologist Fernando Ortiz explains the process of transculturation by explaining the relationships between European whites and black slaves in Cuba during the period of colonization. In the initial phase of the transculturation process, the oppressed group is subordinate to the oppressor group, will behave in a hostile way and will try to rebel against it. However, in the next phase, the oppressed group will make changes in its behavior to avoid the negative consequences of resisting the subordination of the oppressing group. Then , the group subjected to the impositions of the oppressive group accepts and imitates the cultural forms of the latter.

It should be noted that colonization is not the only context in which the transculturation process can take place. This can occur in various situations in which cultural learning is imposed or embraced by individuals who acquire a new culture and leave their own.

Examples of transculturation

The colonization

A good example of transculturation is colonialism . When Europeans colonized the American continent, they brought values ​​and traditions typical of European culture to these lands. Today, many countries on this continent speak Spanish due to the Spanish colonial conquest and in the same way, because of this influence, in many of them, the Catholic religion is professed .


The process of transculturation in Chile began with the arrival of the Spanish in this country . First, during the colonial period and second, during the immigration period. The contact of these two communities (Spanish and Chilean) implied an adaptation process for both. Hispano-aboriginal transculturation had such a high degree that even today Chileans express cultural values ​​of more Spanish influence than aboriginal . It could even be said that the contributions of aboriginal culture in the Chilean people have practically disappeared.


An example of transculturation in Colombia can be seen in the evolution of the traditional music of Popayán , capital of Cauca. Before the Spanish conquest, different indigenous groups lived in this city and later, with the colonization, they were exposed to the oppression of the conquerors. Of course, one of the most prominent features of Spanish culture is the Catholic religion and the presence of the Franciscans. Today, one of the traditions of this region is religious music.


Venezuela is a country with a history in which three different cultures converge , namely: indigenous, African and Spanish . As happened in the other countries of Latin America , in colonial times with the arrival of the Spanish and the African slaves, a strong process of transculturation was experienced. Today, the features of indigenous culture are limited to the use of some words and gastronomy, while the African influence is evidenced above all in cultural forms such as music ; the drum is a good example of this. The culture that had the greatest influence was the Spanishand that is evidenced in current cultural values ​​such as the Catholic religion and language . Later, Venezuela saw its culture enrich itself with the contribution of other cultures in the 19th century, such as the French . Not counting the different communities of Spanish, Italian and Portuguese origin, which immigrated to the Venezuelan territory known at the time for its oil boom.

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