by Anne Carr
Recently, a student from L.A., here in Cuenca to study for a few months, and I carried out a series of interviews with extranjeros (foreigners), mostly jubilados (retirees), and Cuencanos. The intent of the interviews was to identify some of the adaptations expats and locals have to undergo as the cultures integrate. Questions for the interviews were adapted from a study on Albanians legally migrating into Italy in 2009.
On a visit to England last year, having lived many years in Canada and more than four years in Cuenca, I experienced a growing feeling of homelessness, finding myself no longer at home in England. I sought comfort in trying to rethink the meaning of identity in a world of increased border crossing.
I grew up in London in the 1960s, witnessing waves of immigrants from Uganda, India, and Pakistan. Exotic in their appearance, they brought new languages and customs as they began to buy houses (in fact, my grandparents’ houses), open stores, doctors’ and lawyers’ offices, and teach in schools and universities. Later, immigrants from Turkey, Greece, and Eastern European countries arrived to expand the multicultural and multilingual nature of Britain into what it now is.
On Friday, May 24, at the Carolina Bookstore, a group, still in search of a name, met to discuss possible shared interests in collaborating on a project to investigate varieties of assisted living for jubilados. We discussed shared experiences and information about various types of assisted living in Europe, Canada, and the U.S. The consensus was that this venture would not be for profit of any kind, but rather cooperative, as in concepts of coop housing, intentional community, and group homes.
A few days later, I met with a group of Cuencanos at one of the local universities, where I encountered an important question that related to identity, that is, Ecuadorian identity. Assisted living –- still a new concept in Cuenca -– rather than being cared for in the family home sounded somewhat like being absorbed into “gringo culture” with a resulting loss of Ecuadorian identity and values. Nevertheless, they found it an interesting concept!
Perhaps instead of viewing ourselves and our identities like trees with roots and trunks, we might consider what French philosopher Deleuze calls a “rhizome”: different than the idea of a root, with no beginning and no end, but always in the middle. If the tree image of cultural identity is associated with territory, continuity, and unity, a rhizomatic cultural identity is characterized by globalization, discontinuity, and multiplicity … in our shared frailty.
The next meeting to discuss assisted living possibilities for anyone who lives in Cuenca will take place on Friday June 3 at 3 p.m. at the Carolina Bookstore, Hermano Miguel y Calle Larga, Cuenca. Discussion points will include:
• What kinds of physical environments do we want?
• Where might be a suitable location?
• Are there existing buildings or a new design?
• What can we learn from existing resources already available?