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Differences are meant to be celebrated and shared and highlighted as the beauty that makes the world spin around. Each of us and our cultures are different and unique. Please join Blupela in celebrating the uniqueness of your life and heritage by sharing it as a spotlight on Light of Culture.

Create a Light of Culture Spotlight and show the creativity of your people to the world. It can be a photo or video of anything that represents who you are and who you see yourself to be within your communities and cultural background. Art, music, dance, food, clothing, worship, sports, anything that is unique to YOU!

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Votes4 DateJul 7, 2016

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Chassidic Music

Bernard Asper
Picture at my father's wedding November 13, 1958. From left to right my grandfather's best friend, the Chassidic head, Rebbe of the Radziner Chassidim a sect of Chassidim, Rabbi Yerucham Leiner shaking my grandfather's hand; A member of the Rebbe's family; My father Rabbi Myer Asper/Aspes; Moshe Aspes, my father's oldest brother; Their father my grandfather Rabbi Yitzchak Yerachmiel Aspes; Rabbi Aaron Yehudah Arak, my mother's mother's brother, they were children of Hinda Renke Arak sister of a famous rabbi in their old country Rabbi Meir Arak; Pinchas Asper/Aspes, my father's next older brother; And lastly but not leastly my father's Rabbinical Teacher.
Since my background is Eastern European Jewish I decided I should start off posting on my heritage so I will. I am first generation American. My mother's natural side of her family was from the Austro-Hungarian Empire and her stepfather was a Chassidic Jew originally from Poland who a widower who married my grandmother who was widowed by the Holocaust.
My mother a hidden child in the Holocaust and her mother a survivor came to the States from Belgium. My father's side of the family came from Lodz, Poland. His father was born in London, England to parents who came from Poland and returned with him to there where he eventually married my grandmother who was born and raised in Lodz, Poland like his parents. Her family was in the textile business and so she knew Polish from having to deal with the customers. My father's parents were Chassidim from generations of Chassidim whereas my mother was not though on her side I had and have relatives who were and are Chassidim including those who are from Chassidic Rabbinical dynasties that led them.
My father born in London, grew up in Bnei Brak, Israel a place where Eastern European Jewish culture was replanted and later in the States where he moved to going with his mother and oldest brother and joining up with his father and his other older brother in the Boro Park section of Brooklyn he again was where Eastern European Jewish culture was replanted. He met my mother there as that is where she grew up on moving to the States. I picked up from my background a deep appreciation of spirituality and sensitivity expressed partly through music.
Chassidism is a pietistic movement that arose in Eastern Europe in the early 1700s. It emphasizes that one can have an immediate attachment to God no matter what their intellectual and educational state. God is right there immanent in everything and so there is holiness hidden everywhere that need only be brought out. Here are some examples of Chassidic music. If I haven't shown enough blame it on Youtube. Only kidding, Youtube.

Votes4 DateMay 19, 2015

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Szekely People of Transylvania

Attila Domos
Seeing as I am a Hungarian from Transylvania, I have to make my first "Light of Culture" about the Szekely people of Transylvania. I don't exactly know if I have Szekely blood in me or not, but while growing up, I was often referred to as "egy szep Szekely fiu" (translation "a nice Szekely boy"). But Hungarians living in Transylvania are fairly often refereed to as Szekely by Hungarians living in Hungary, even if they aren't.
In case you're wondering about the current national location of Transylvania, it's the biggest part of Romania, the North West section, from the Carpathian mountains to the borders of Hungary. Think of Transylvania kind of like Sicily. These states both have a strong ethnic heritage, they're both valuable land, and both have been their own state, and part of other nations. Transylvania has very rich farming soil and is also rich in gold and has oil. It has been home to Attila the Hun and Vlad Tepes, aka Vlad the Impaler aka Dracula. If you've ever been to the Carpathian mountains, they are very steep, very beautiful and have (at least to me) a very creepy vibe about them, I even felt a this vibe when I traveled through there as a child and had no idea of the bloody history of the region.
Getting back to the Szekelys. There are about 1.5 million Hungarians living in today's Romania, and most of them in Transylvania. Roughly about half of them are Szekely. The Szekelys are kind of a "sub-culture" in the Hungarian population. They seemed to appear sometime during the 12th century and according to their own folklore, they are direct descendents of the Huns. However, to the best of my knowledge no one has yet proven this to be true. But like the Huns, they have always been excellent horsemen, and even served the Hungarian Empire as light cavalry. They were very effective against nomad invaders from the East, and at least a number of times played major roles in thwarting Turkish invasions. Like the Huns, they attacked on horseback, struck quickly and disappeared before the enemy knew what hit them. There've been a number of times through out history were they pushed for a nation of their own, but always found themselves to be a minority, and were always denied.
Since my parents were both Hungarians who grew up in separate Hungarian villages in Transylvania (my mother in Szik and my father in Korispatak), I was raised with their values, which of course included going to a Hungarian school, and learning Hungarian dancing and music. Because of the fact that my parents were both in the symphony, I started my music career at a young age by learning the masters, Kodaly, Bartok and Liszt. Though Liszt came later. I also learned about Hungarian Gypsy and Szekely music. My mother was the folk singer in the family (besides the 2nd viola 1st chair in the Nagyvarad or Oradea in its Romanian name, orchestra), and she often sang Hungarian folk songs, again... including Gypsy and Szekely ones. Here's an example of traditional SZekely music:
Though I don't remember much about my dancing days (they didn't last long before we left Romania to escape Nicolae Ceausescu's regime) I did enjoy it. The pictures are of me, and the other with my dance partner, Marika.
Unfortunately I don't have any video of myself dancing, but I did find this interesting video of Szekely dancing being used to help explain how to sort algorithms. I'm posting this because I noticed that the video was created by a university professor in the city of my birth, Marosvasarhely, or in its Romanian name Tirgu-Mures.
I hated having to learn all of these "traditional" things in my youth. All I wanted was to be like the cool neighborhood kids, and play soccer. I even found myself resenting my parents for forcing me to learn these "stupid things which didn't matter in today's world", but you know what? I'm happy they forced it on me. I know my heritage... or at least the roots. I know where I come from, and it's helped me better understand who I am, and knowing that gave me a huge advantage in life, when trying to figure out where I'm going.
Story by: Attila Domos

Votes4 DateMay 19, 2015

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(HEMA) Historical European Martial Arts: A Living History

Nathaniel Pantalone
Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) are martial arts that were practiced in Europe that have been lost or that have evolved into other practices. These arts include sword fighting (and other weapons forms), grappling, and wrestling.
HEMA organizations are like karate clubs in that members join together under a teacher to learn lost martial arts through historical texts, practice, and physical effort. This sort of living history keeps old martial art styles alive in a way that text cannot. Many HEMA teachers and instructors use historical text (source material) to teach new techniques, but they emphasize that immediately trying to practice a technique after reading about it is very difficult. This demonstrates the importance of practice and the necessity of the sport. Practitioners are eager to practice their art against non-cooperative combatants, which makes competitions athletic and competitive.
HEMA organizations are growing in popularity, and teachers are quick to emphasize that they do everything to ensure that their students will be safe--modern equipment with modern technology is used.
Learn more in this HEMA documentary:

Votes2 DateNov 5, 2015

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Bernard Asper

The Roma are an ethnic people who have migrated across Europe for a thousand years. The Roma culture has a rich oral tradition, with an emphasis on family. Often portrayed as exotic and strange, the Roma have faced discrimination and persecution for centuries.
Today, they are one of the largest ethnic minorities in Europe — about 12 million to 15 million people, according to UNICEF, with 70 percent of them living in Eastern Europe. About a million Roma live in the United States, according to Time.
Roma is the word that many Roma use to describe themselves. They are also known as Rom or Romany.
The Roma are also sometimes called Gypsies. However, some people consider that a derogatory term, a holdover from when it was thought these people came from Egypt. It is now thought that the Roma people migrated to Europe from India about 1,500 years ago.
They originated in northern India and by the second half of the 20th century they had spread to every inhabited continent.
Because of their migratory nature, their absence in official census returns, and their popular classification with other nomadic groups, estimates of the total world Roma population range from two million to five million. No significant statistical picture can be gained from the sporadic reporting in different countries. Most Roma were still in Europe in the early 21st century, especially in the Slavic-speaking lands of central Europe and the Balkans. Large numbers live in Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, the Czech and Slovak republics, and Hungary.
All nomadic Roma migrate at least seasonally along patterned routes that ignore national boundaries. They also follow along a chain, as it were, of kin or tribal links. The Roma’s own supposed disposition to wander has been forcibly furthered by exile or deportation. Only 80 years after their first appearance in western Europe in the 15th century, they fell under the penalty of banishment in almost all the nations of western Europe. Despite their systematic exile, or transportation abroad, however, they continued to reappear in one guise or another back in the countries they had left.
All unsettled confederations who live among settled peoples seem to become convenient scapegoats. So it is with the Roma, who have regularly been accused by the local populace of many evils as a prelude to later official and legal persecution. Their relations with the authorities in the host country have been marked by consistent contradiction. Official decrees were often aimed at settling or assimilating them, yet local authorities systematically refused them the bare hospitality of a campsite. During the Holocaust the Nazis murdered an estimated 400,000 Roma. French laws in modern times forbade them campsites and subjected them to police supervision, yet they were taxed and drafted for military service like ordinary citizens. Spain and Wales are two countries often cited as examples where Roma have become settled, if not wholly assimilated. In modern times the socialist countries of eastern Europe attempted programs of enforced settlement to end Roma migration.
Traditionally the Roma have pursued occupations that allowed them to maintain an itinerant life on the perimeters of settled society. The men were livestock traders, animal trainers and exhibitors, tinkers (metalsmiths and utensil repairmen), and musicians; the women told fortunes, sold potions, begged, and worked as entertainers. Before the advent of veterinary medicine, many farmers looked to Roma livestock dealers for advice on herd health and husbandry.
The archetypal Roma family consists of a married couple, their unmarried children, and at least one married son, his wife, and their children. Upon marriage, a young couple typically lives with the husband’s parents while the young wife learns the ways of her husband’s group. Ideally, by the time an older son is ready to move away with his family, a younger son will have married and joined the household with his new wife. Although the practice had declined significantly by the late 20th century, marriages traditionally were arranged by the elders in the family or band (vitsa) to strengthen political and kinship ties to other families, bands, or, occasionally, confederations. A central feature of Roma marriages was the payment of a bride-price to the parents of the bride by the parents of the groom.
Gypsy chieftains (voivodes) are elected for life from among outstanding families of the group, and the office is not heritable. Their power and authority vary according to the size of the band, its traditions, and its relationships with other bands within a confederation.
It was the voivode who acted as treasurer for the whole band, decided the pattern of its migration, and became its spokesman to local municipal authorities. He governed through a council of elders that also consulted with the phuri dai, a senior woman in the band. The phuri dai’s influence was strong, particularly in regard to the fate of the women and children, and seemed to rest much on the evident earning power and organization of the women as a group within the band.
Strongest among Roma institutions of social control was the kris, connoting both the body of customary law and values of justice as well as the ritual and formation of the tribunal of the band. Basic to the Roma code were the all-embracing concepts of fidelity, cohesiveness, and reciprocity within the recognized political unit. The ultimate negative sanction of the kris tribunal, which dealt with all disputes and breaches of the code, was excommunication from the band. A sentence of ostracism, however, might exclude the individual from participation in certain band activities and punish him with menial tasks. In some cases rehabilitation was granted by the elders and followed by a feast of reconciliation.
Bands are made up of vitsas, which are name groups of extended families with common descent either patrilineal or matrilineal, as many as 200 strong.
Spiritual beliefs
The Roma do not follow a single faith; rather, they often adopt the predominant religion of the country where they are living, according to Open Society, and describe themselves as "many stars scattered in the sight of God." Some Roma groups are Catholic, Muslim, Pentecostal, Protestant, Anglican or Baptist.
The Roma live by a complex set of rules that govern things such as cleanliness, purity, respect, honor and justice. These rules are referred to as what is "Rromano." Rromano means to behave with dignity and respect as a Roma person, according to Open Society. "Rromanipé" is what the Roma refer to as their worldview.
Though the groups of Roma are varied, they all do speak one language, called Rromanës. Rromanës has roots in Sanskritic languages, and is related to Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu and Bengali. Some Romani words have been borrowed by English speakers, including "pal" (brother) and "lollipop" (from lolo-phabai-cosh, red apple on a stick).
The Roma today
While there are still traveling bands, most use cars and RVs to move from place to place rather than the horses and wagons of the past.
Today, most Roma have settled into houses and apartments and are not readily distinguishable. Because of continued discrimination, many do not publicly acknowledge their roots and only reveal themselves to other Roma.
While there is not a physical country affiliated with the Romani people, the International Romani Union was officially established in 1977. In 2000, The 5th World Romany Congress in 2000 officially declared Romani a non-territorial nation.
During the Decade of Roma Inclusion (2005-2015), 12 European countries made a commitment to eliminate discrimination against the Roma. The effort focused on education, employment, health and housing, as well as core issues of poverty, discrimination, and gender mainstreaming. However, according to the RSG, despite the initiative, Roma continue to face widespread discrimination.
According to a report by the Council of Europe's commissioner for human rights, "there is a shameful lack of implementation concerning the human rights of Roma … In many countries hate speech, harassment and violence against Roma are commonplace."
Edited from the Encyclopedia Brittanica Roma article online as well as from https://amp.livescience.com/44512-gypsy-culture.html

Votes1 DateJul 24, 2018

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Bernard Asper
The autonomous community of Catalonia occupies a triangular area in the northeastern corner of Spain. It is bordered by France and Andorra to the north, the Mediterranean Sea to the east, the autonomous community of Valencia to the south, and the autonomous community of Aragon to the west. The autonomous community of Catalonia was established by the statute of autonomy of December 18, 1979. The government consists of a Generalitat (an executive council headed by a president) and a unicameral parliament. The capital is Barcelona. The principal rivers in Catalonia are the Ter, Llobregat, and Ebro, all of which flow into the Mediterranean. A Mediterranean climate prevails throughout most of Catalonia, with hot, dry summers and mild, relatively rainy winters.
The towns of the Catalan coast have dominated the development of the region, with the result that the population is heavily concentrated along the Mediterranean, increasingly depopulating the hinterland. In the 20th century there was additional concentration of population in the city of Barcelona and its satellite towns.
Catalonia’s traditional agriculture was centered on the production of wine, almonds, and olive oil for export, as well as rice, potatoes, and corn (maize) as staples. Slightly more than one-third of Catalonia remains under cultivation, and the traditional crops of olives and grapes are being supplanted by fruits and vegetables for consumption in the cities. The raising of pigs and cows is the dominant agricultural activity. Agriculture accounts for only a tiny fraction of Catalonia’s domestic product, however.
The autonomous community of Catalonia is the richest and most highly industrialized part of Spain. The Catalan textile industry first achieved prominence between 1283 and 1313 and long remained the region’s premier industry. The manufacturing sector underwent rapid expansion and diversification since the 1950s, however, and metalworking, food-processing, pharmaceutical, and chemical industries had overtaken textiles in importance by the 21st century. Textile, paper making and graphic arts, chemicals, and metalworking industries are concentrated in Barcelona; Sabadell and Terrassa are also textile centers. One of Barcelona’s plants produces electric automobiles for Nissan. Catalonia’s growing demand for petroleum products led to the expansion of Tarragona’s petroleum refineries. Services, particularly those of tourism and transportation, are highly developed.
Catalonia was one of the first Roman possessions in Spain. Occupied during the 5th century by the Goths, it was taken by the Moors in 712 and at the end of the 8th century by Charlemagne, who incorporated it into his realm as the Spanish March, ruled by a count.
Frankish suzerainty over Catalonia was merely nominal, however, and was completely rejected during the reign of Count Borrell (died 991).
From 1137, when Count Ramon Berenguer IV of Barcelona was betrothed to Petronila, queen of Aragon, Catalonia and Aragon were united under the same ruler. Catalonia monopolized trade in the western Mediterranean in the 13th and 14th centuries, and Catalan interests dominated the union with Aragon until 1410, when the male line of the counts of Barcelona became extinct.
Dissatisfaction in Catalonia with the new Trastámara dynasty of Aragon increased after 1412, and during the reign of John II it developed into a full-scale but unsuccessful rebellion (1462–72).
After the marriage of John II’s son Ferdinand with Isabella of Castile (1469) had brought about the unification of Spain, Catalonia became of secondary importance in Spanish affairs. Though it retained its autonomy and Generalitat (assembly), by the 17th century its conflict of interest with Castile, along with the decline of the Spanish monarchy’s prestige, led to the first of a series of Catalan separatist movements. In 1640 Catalonia revolted against Spain and placed itself under the protection of Louis XIII of France, but the revolt was quelled in the 1650s. In the War of the Spanish Succession, Catalonia declared its support for the archduke Charles and resisted the accession of the Bourbon dynasty in Spain, but in 1714 it was completely subjugated by the forces of the Bourbon Philip V, who abolished the Catalan constitution and autonomy.
The Catalonians' language Catalan developed from its inhabitants bordering with various language areas. In the 1850s serious efforts were made to revive Catalan as a living language with its own press and theater—a movement known as the Renaixença (“Rebirth”). Catalan nationalism became a serious force after 1876, when the defeat of the Carlists led the church to transfer its support to the movement for autonomy.
Catalan nationalism had two major strands: a conservative, Roman Catholic one and a more liberal, secular one. The former was initially predominant, particularly in the first decades of the 20th century. By 1913 Catalonia had won a slight degree of autonomy, but the legislation conferring it was repealed in 1925 by Miguel Primo de Rivera, who attacked all manifestations of Catalan nationalism.
Primo de Rivera’s policy led to the formation of a left-wing coalition party in Catalonia, the Esquerra Republicana. The Esquerra won a sweeping victory in the municipal elections of 1931, and two days later its leader proclaimed a Catalan Republic. A compromise was worked out with the central government, and in September 1932 the statute of autonomy for Catalonia became law. Catalonia played a prominent role in the history of Republican Spain and in the Civil War (1936–39). The Nationalists’ victory in 1939 meant the loss of autonomy, however, and Gen. Francisco Franco’s government adopted a repressive policy toward Catalan nationalism.
The establishment of democratic rule in Spain after Franco’s death did not lessen Catalonia’s desire for autonomy, and in September 1977 limited autonomy was granted to the region. The pro-autonomy Convergence and Union party was founded the following year, and it served as the dominant political force in Catalonia over subsequent decades. Full autonomy was granted in 1979 with the establishment of the autonomous community of Catalonia. In 2006 Catalonia was granted “nation” status and given the same level of taxation responsibility as the Spanish central government. Spain’s Constitutional Court struck down portions of this autonomy statute in 2010, ruling that Catalans constituted a “nationality” but that Catalonia was not, itself, a “nation.”
Many Catalans, frustrated at the management of the Spanish economy throughout the euro-zone debt crisis, continued to push for increased fiscal independence from the central government. In 2013 the Catalonian regional parliament passed a measure calling for a referendum on independence from Spain to be held in 2014. Scotland’s referendum on independence from the United Kingdom in September 2014, although ultimately unsuccessful, galvanized the independence movement in Catalonia. Convergence and Union leader Artur Mas called for the long-promised, albeit nonbinding, independence referendum to be held on November 9, 2014. The move was immediately challenged by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, and the independence campaign was suspended while the Constitutional Court considered the legality of the vote. Ultimately, Mas proceeded with the referendum but framed it as an informal poll of Catalan opinion. With more than one-third of registered voters participating in the balloting, over 80 percent expressed a desire for independence.
The push for Independence and the push against continues and has not let up on either side of the debate. Whatever happens there is no doubt that the Catalans have a unique culture and their language is the official language of the small principality of Andorra that lies between France and Spain.
Edited and compiled mostly from https://www.britannica.com/place/Catalonia

Votes1 DateSep 23, 2016

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Elderly Man in Sarajevo, Bosnia

elderly man in Sarajevo, Bosnia

Votes1 DateJul 13, 2015

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Daily Life, Istanbul, Turkey

daily life, Istanbul, Turkey

Votes1 DateJul 7, 2015

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Woman Selling Trinkets in Belgrade, Serbia

woman selling trinkets in Belgrade, Serbia

Votes1 DateJul 2, 2015

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