Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Spring 2002


Published in Great Plains Research 12:1 (Spring 2002): 3-12. Copyright © 2002 Center for Great Plains Studies.


The topic of culture is relevant when focusing on Latinos on the Great Plains. It is evident that Latinos, both as individuals and as group members, exhibit various dimensions of culture in their day-to-day lives. What becomes problematic is how culture is defined and/or operationalized in assessing the Latino experience.

Several definitions of culture serve to demonstrate that culture is one of the most difficult terms to describe. One of the earliest definitions comes from E. B. Tylor who perceived culture as "that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, laws, customs, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society" (Tylor [1871] 1958:42). Linton suggested that culture means the "total social heredity of mankind" (Linton 1936:78), and Herskovits viewed culture as "the manmade part of the environment" (Herskovits 1948: 17). Paradoxically, these definitions of culture serve to place culture in historical perspective and exemplify the changing and dynamic aspects of culture (e.g., notice the reference to "man" in these early discussions).