Colonia Tovar is something we would call here in India a small-town. What is interesting about Colonia Tovar is that it is a German-speaking small-town not located in Austria, Germany, Switzerland or any other European country; no Colonia Tovar is located in Venezuela (South-America).
The story goes like this: in the 1840’s hunger and poverty convinced approximately 400 people to exchange the Black Forest with the rain forest.
Shoemakers, butchers, farmers, were among the courageous people heading into the unknown.
Today, that place is called Colonia Tovar, you can find pubs with very, very German names, like Schwarzwald (engl. “Black Forest”) and a bakery is called Das Brot (Engl. “The Bread”). The waitresses in the pub wear traditional German dresses and people speak German, alright, their own dialect of it.
I find it fascinating that the German heritage survived for over 160 years in an entirely different cultural environment.
And it raises a number of questions: what did the settlers bring along and what did Venezuela give that allowed for the survival of the German traditions to such an extent. It makes me also ask myself in how far we are ready to immerse in the culture of a new place we go to and in how far are we supposed to assimilate, how much should we hold on to our traditions?
It also raises the question of how we can conserve our cultural heritage without being too adamant on preventing change.
And of course in the end: what are our traditions?
(Very similar is also the tradition of Indian (mainly Bihari) settlers in Mauritius, they managed to maintain their culture in many ways. If you ever meet a Mauritian of Indian heritage force him/her to make Dal Puri for you, a Bihari delight ;-))