The Legend of Latin
A Lesson in Latin
Latin dance, Latin music and Latin spirit: it seems we’re all speaking the same language, but what are we actually saying? The origins of the Latin language itself provide some clues. Latin comes from the language once spoken in a tiny, central Italian province, Latina. Previously a popular language, Latin is now confined to academia and the Vatican. However, it did form the basis of the Romance languages -Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Romanian.
So how then, did the ‘Latin’ focus shift from Europe to South America and the Caribbean? It’s a tale of a Spanish voyage bound for India, but which ended in the discovery of the Americas – the Southern part initially christened “Hispanoamerica”. Only after independence from Spain, and with France’s increasing global influence, was the term “Latin America” adopted, in the 19th Century. Now, Latin is best described not in terms of language or geography but as a culture, a lifestyle, a way of thinking and being. It’s a culture renowned for its Open: -mindedness and integrated outlook (Argentina’s president, for example is Swiss/Croatian), so it’s safe to say that everyone’s welcome to join the Latin party.
A cultural mismatch?
Latin culture and Japanese society might appear incompatible – whoever heard of a salaryman taking a siesta? However, many Japanese seem attracted to the Latin way as an escape from the rigidity and conformity of their own society. Latin culture offers emotion, relaxation and an attitude to life which focuses on the moment. It fosters self-expression and individuality. Most importantly, it validates a life in which work is forgotten after 6 PM, now means soon, and the moment is definitely for enjoying.
History of Latin in Japan
In 1549, Spanish missionaries, among them Francis Xavier, arrived in Kagoshima and later set up base in Nagasaki, introducing Christianity to Japan. The first wave of Japanese emigration to Latin America occurred in the 1880’s. Due to overpopulation and shortages of food and jobs, the Japanese government encouraged emigration with monetary incentives. Even today, Japanese businesses demanding precision and attention to detail – such as flower-arranging and dry-cleaning – still prosper in Brazil, Peru and Argentina. After World War II, a second wave of Japanese emigrated to Latin America, the majority from Kyushu and especially Okinawa. During the economic boom and labor shortage of the 1980’s, the Japanese government quickly accepted immigrants from Latin America – countries with whom, by now, even blood ties existed. The change in Japanese law in 1990, allowing foreigners to obtain a working visa if they had up to third generation Japanese relatives, brought more immigrants.
Today there are, for example, about 200 Peruvian families in Fukuoka. In the early 90’s Peruvian men came here to work in construction and factories. After a few years they were able to bring their families over and start a new life. While adjusting to Japanese work rhythms and learning the language present some difficulties, coming to Japan is a positive experience for most Latin American immigrants. The largest problem they face is their children’s education. Children tend to fall behind at school because of language difficulties and may end up being able to write neither Japanese nor Spanish confidently. Network Kyushu (an organization that provides help to foreigners in Kyushu/Tel. 092-431-1419) is in the process of establishing initiatives to help such children.
Fukuoka’s Latin Love
The Latin influence in Fukuoka has infused this Open -minded city with an upbeat, alternative scene. In the last ten years, Latin-inspired bars, clubs and restaurants have sprung up throughout the city. The majority were established by Japanese who traveled to Latin America and were impressed with what they saw, bringing back a slice of the culture as well as some great recipes! It’s now possible to study Portuguese, salsa, Spanish guitar and more at schools in Fukuoka.
Even the city’s skyline is Latin influenced, Argentinean architects designed both ACROS and the Seahawk Hotel and Resort. Fukuoka also boasts Tiempo Iberoamericano, one of Japas focal Latin culture centers. Tiempo is a full-service center that Opened its doors in 1996 and offers, in addition to dance, language and music classes, a book and video library, art shows and a constant parade of events. It organizes the now-legendary ‘Isla de Salsa’ annual summer Caribbean Festival on Nokoshima. Other annual events include Animate (a winter version of Isla de Salsa) and the Fukukoi parade in October. With such a diversity of Latin influences in Fukuoka, the culture’s popularity seems destined to increase. Considering Latins are renowned for passion and Japanese for reason, it looks like the Latin Fukuoka love affair could be a match made in heaven.