Ethnic/Cultural Identity Paper

Fiesta is a huge annual festival in San Antonio that started its history in 1891. In the beginning, it was supposed to honor the memory of the Battle of San Jacinto and the heroes of Alamo. This part is still important, and the commemoration of the battle still takes significant place. However, during the last hundred years Fiesta turned into a ten-day festival that is celebrated by diverse cultures of San Antonio. People from all over the United States and even all over the world come to see the celebration and take part in the festival. It happens every year at the end of April, but the commission works all year round to organize everything, coordinate the details and tasks that are essential for this enormous event. The festival is something to get ready to in advance. It includes more than a hundred of different cultural, musical, military, sport, and environment events, which are all very interesting and spectacular. Most people start thinking about their costumes for the festival several months before the event. All the outfits are creative and thought-out, showing the tastes and preferences of the owner. This paper will discuss how a dress functions as a means of both group and individual identity.

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One of the most spectacular events is the Fiesta Flambeau Parade, or the parade of candle light. It usually takes place on the second Saturday of the festival. During this parade more than five hundred thousand people from all over the world stand along the way of the route of 2.6 miles. There are also millions of people that watch the parade on television. Thousands of lights and candles are lighted everywhere after the sunset; dancers, singers, and cars are all illuminated. It is an unbelievable event to participate or just to watch.
Another famous event of the Fiesta festival is the Battle of flowers. It is one of the oldest and most popular events that are celebrated during the festival. It takes place on the second Friday of Fiesta. Only women are taking part in the parade, and all of them are always volunteers. Some schools in San Antonio even do not hold classes on this day. Yellow is the color of this parade; all participants wear yellow clothes and hats. This event is a way to honor the memory of the heroes of Alamo.
I was lucky to visit the Fiesta Festival and see with my own eyes how spectacular and well organized it was. Every day was filled with hundreds of big and small events. There was always something to see and somebody to listen to. All kinds of people came to watch and participate, so one could never get bored there. I was not able to see everything, but I enjoyed every minute of each event.
One of the most interesting things to pay attention to is people’s outfit. It could be seen right away that almost everybody worked hard on the appearance. Most participants looked not only stylish, but unique. It is not a secret that outfit can tell much about a person, but it was even more obvious on the festival. I paid attention to different groups of people and noticed that most participants within one group wore the clothes that matched up. The participants created a sort of small communities that were indicated by their outfits. It is known that a costume can demonstrate dynamic features of the person, character traits, inner freedom, or even indicate mood. I would even say that clothing is a reflection of the inner world of its owner. It also affects the state of personality in communication with other people, measures conflicts in communication, and makes us attractive in the eyes of certain people. It also shows different ways of visualization of a person’s “I” to others.

I had a chance to distinguish three participants whose dresses were the most remarkable and memorable for me. Their names were Amy, Jeff and Katy. I discussed their dresses with them and had a chance to think about the way those dresses function as means of a group or individual identity. Such festival as Fiesta is a perfect place to pay attention to different outfits and possible functions of them. Most people came with their friends, so the visual connection could be seen and analyzed right on the spot.
The first guest of the festival that I chose to talk to was Amy. From the very first sight, she looked brave and independent to me. Her clothes were so bright that she could probably be seen from a very big distance. Not only color attracted my attention but also the style itself, the originality of the costume and accessorizes. She said that her favorite color was green, and thus it was the main color of her dress. However, there were also some yellow, black, pink, and brown elements, which were well balanced. All the clothes Amy created herself exclusively for Fiesta. In her everyday life, she works at the office and does not wear such colorful and bright clothes as during the celebration. At the Fiesta festival she was wearing a matching top and leggings made of netting material. It would seem usual in black, but in bright green Amy looked unique. The netting covered all of her body, leaving places only for underwear. The underwear was black and covered with furry material that matched Amy’s shoes, which were covered with the furry material as well. It made her look like a hobbit. She had an extremely short airy skirt made of netting and a small veil made of the same material. Amy’s outfit was a model of personal courage and original taste.
During our discussion, Amy told me that she always wanted to be seen by as many people as possible. She was always the shortest girl in class with regular features and nothing to lay an eye on. It was not her complex, more like a call to action, a sign that she had to do something to be seen. That is why she loved festivals like Fiesta where she could show herself with the brightest colors possible. That is why she started getting ready for the celebration several months before the beginning. This year Fiesta gave her a chance to show the costume of her own design and production. And this is probably the most important part of the festival for Amy. I also watched Amy’s company, and it seemed to me that all of her friends had the same idea about gaining public attention with the help of their costumes.
Jeff was a young man from another company. He and his friends looked luxuriously but at the same time strangely casual. It was hard to say how old Jeff was at first as he was wearing a hat with a wig of curly grey shoulder-length hair, which looked a little weird with Jeff’s jacket. It was leopard print and shiny, made of satin with some leather inserts. The sleeves were decorated with oriental ornaments, and that made Jeff look like a sultan who came out of a fairy tale and got lost in the modern world. However, this impression was somehow ruined by that hat with a wig that added personality but definitely reduced sumptuousness. Jeff’s trousers were not something that stroke an eye right away. It took me some time to notice that those trousers were all covered with small coins of different size. It was so surprising that Jeff told a story of how he collected the coins, bought them everywhere possible and then made a hole in each coin and sewn them on his old favorite pants. That can definitely be called a good preparation for the holiday.
Jeff also told me that he and his friend always make fun of money and how modern people cannot live without it. They wanted to exaggerate the luxury and make fun of it with their clothes. At first sight, it might look like they wanted to gain public attention with the help of costumes, like Amy’s company. But after spending some time with them, I realized that their outfits were created more for their own fun without caring about anybody’s opinion. What they were trying to do was just to have fun at the festival just as they are doing it in their everyday lives.
The third person that drew my attention was Katy. Unlike Amy, she did not try to attract attention with the help of clothes. And unlike Jeff, she did not want to express any idea or attach any particular importance to her costume. The main reason I decided to talk to her was that she looked so feminine that most people stopped their eyes on her for at least several seconds. She wore dark blue fitting knee-length dress with thin straps and long foxtail attached to her side. Big earrings adorned her ears, dozens of bracelets rang on her arms, and her neck was decorated with several heavy pendants. Her stilettos were a little old-fashioned, but they emphasized the beauty of her legs. Basically, that is all that can be said about Katy’s appearance. At least, that is all that can be said with words because the impression she made on me was very strong. I would even say it was unforgettable. Her simple dress and pretty common knick-knackery created an image that could not be outshined by bright colors and crazy fashions.
Interestingly, Katy told me she was tired of the attention and just wanted to feel comfortable and normal. Her festival outfit was not planned or created in advance; it was just something that happened to lie on a visible place of her room. Katy came with her company, where nobody tried to look special. However, each person looked great in their own personal way without showing off. It did not look that they previously discussed their outfits even though they somehow matched and were obviously from one company, or I would even say a small community.
Analyzing different dresses of Amy, Jeff and Katy, I realize that their outfit is an essential distinctive mark of the group of people as well as their personalities. Those dresses function as a means of both group and individual identity. It is hard to say what is primary here. Probably, Amy would not feel comfortable in Katy’s company, where nobody tries to stand out with the help of clothes. And Jeff would be bored in a company where there is no idea to present and develop through outfit. People form groups according to their personal characteristics and wishes. Thus, they can express their personality both individually and in a group that reinforces their identity. Clothing as a means of human expression is always in the foreground for any individual. However, it also has a great social importance. Clothing underlines the status of a person and tells other people about his/ her ideas. At the same time, adherence to a particular culture symbolizes the human desire to be united in groups in order to feel safe and protected. It is common in the modern world to form groups based on clothing preferences among other important traits of connection. Therefore, it can be said that the outfit functions as a means of both group and individual identity.

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