8 junio, 2024

Cultural elements: definition, meaning, characteristics, examples

What are cultural elements?

The cultural elements They are all the parts that make up the culture of a people, country, ethnic group or region. Together with the natural elements, they give shape, cohesion and identity to societies and allow their clear identification and differentiation from others.

Despite being generally intangible, cultural elements are solid referents of the group to which they belong and describe, since they have been formed over long periods of time and transmitted from generation to generation.

Cultural elements are, then, all the models, patterns, or expressions of a society that regulate, unify, and conceptualize its behavior, way of being, and way of thinking. It includes customs, rituals, and beliefs, as well as clothing, food, and other items.

It is important to note that cultural elements are not static; its dynamism is given mainly by the dynamism of societies, especially in recent centuries.

This is due to the advancement of technology, means of transportation and transculturation, which have allowed different cultures to have contact with each other, sharing and exchanging elements that can slowly modify certain cultural aspects of their own.

Beyond the transformation to which they may be subjected, this globalization can also become detrimental to the preservation of cultural elements, especially when aspects such as intolerance and political or economic interests intervene.

Examples of the above described are the colonizations of some empires to other empires or civilizations, as in the case of the conquest of the Spanish Empire to the Inca Empire and the Aztec Empire. However, although there were negative aspects such as the death of millions of people -especially due to diseases brought from Europe-, the Europeans brought to America a general advance in society, technology and knowledge.

In antiquity, the cultural elements of a people could be modified by conquests, invasions, crusades, etc.

A still palpable example of this mixture of cultural elements can be seen in Turkey, where the passage of various empires (Roman, Ottoman, Christian) left their mark over many centuries, resulting in a palpable syncretism in cultural elements such as religion, food, clothing and typical dances.

Characteristics of cultural elements

– They represent and identify a human group.

– They are cohesive elements.

– The human being is indispensable for its materialization and transmission.

– It is a collective manifestation.

– Although not all, most tend to be intangible or have a strong immaterial component.

– They require oral or practical transmission for their continuity.

– They are part of a social, historical and concrete phenomenon.

– They are purely creative expressions.

Examples of cultural elements


Language identifies a nation or region, but then there may be dialects or local languages ​​that represent more specific cultures.

For example, Catalan, Galician or Basque within Spain; or Guarani as an indigenous language that coexists with Spanish in Paraguay and in the Río de la Plata area.

The religion

It is an inherent element of the cultural activities of societies from which various creative manifestations and processes derive.

Religion, for example, can be decisive in the manifestation of other cultural elements such as clothing, food and daily routines.

See the case of Jewish communities around the world: their way of dressing is particular, there are certain foods that they cannot eat and their religious beliefs do not allow them, for example, to work on Saturdays.

beliefs and rituals

Beyond religion itself, beliefs can revolve around it or refer to myths, popular customs or completely pagan practices.

The dressing

It is a cultural element marked by fashion, by the geographical and climatic characteristics of the region or by religion.

In some cases, clothing is an element that clearly identifies the culture of the people who wear it, such as the use of the burqa by Islamic women.

music and dance

The rhythms and instruments of a social group are, if you like, the most descriptive and most transcendental cultural elements.

Music is a universal language and therefore its manifestations are shared, understood and accepted by the majority. This is why music is a very powerful element to expose the culture of a certain social group.

culinary traditions

It is here that the combination of different cultures is most clearly perceived. At present it is difficult to recognize typical and typical foods of a region without some arrivals from other latitudes that come to complement native recipes.

However, the typical dishes of a region are a resounding form of expression of its culture. Examples: Mexican tamale, Spanish paella, Italian pasta.

games and sports

Many have already become universal, but they had a strong local cultural component in their beginnings. Others are playful representations of ancient traditions.


The architecture of a city, country or region leaves clear evidence of its history and its influences through the years, not only in terms of architectural styles, but also in the use and function that buildings built at different times had or have.


Perhaps it is the purest cultural element, since nothing else intervenes than the hand of its author. The materials used are native to the region and the manufacturing techniques are transmitted by observation and practice from generation to generation.

Many of them have been industrialized (as in the case of silk manufacturing in China), but they have not ceased to have a high cultural component.


The different cultures have very marked dates to give importance to a fact. These are the well-known celebrations and parties, which can be individual or intimate (quinceañera party) or collective and universal (Rio de Janeiro Carnival).

Continuing with the case of Carnival, it is not celebrated in the same way in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) as it is in Venice (Italy), Barranquilla (Colombia), New Orleans (United States) or in Cádiz (Spain), each putting their idiosyncrasies and traditions.


Human development and, therefore, of its culture is linked to technology. Political conceptions such as capitalism or Marxism are born precisely from the evolution of technology, affecting entire nations in their day to day.

History has also been directing how certain peoples have been more predisposed to develop one type of technology compared to others.

For example, in Germany the automotive industry has had more relevance than in other countries, despite being a good used internationally. This defines very well the concerns of its population and its history, since they were pioneers in this sector.

UNESCO as guarantor

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) established in November 1972 the Convention on the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, in order to identify valuable elements for humanity and take responsibility for their preservation. protection and preservation.

Subsequently, in 2003, this same body extended its field of action to intangible cultural elements, understood as uses, expressions, knowledge and techniques inherent to a community.

In this way, each year numerous elements of invaluable cultural wealth are added to the list for societies that, by being declared Cultural Heritage by UNESCO, manage to safeguard themselves for future generations.

All this thanks to national and international entities that ensure the protection and transmission of said assets.


Eunice Ribeiro Durham (1998). Culture, heritage, preservation. Alterities, pages 131-136. Retrieved from biblioteca.ues.edu.sv.
Jose Luis Garcia Garcia (1998). From culture as heritage to cultural heritage. Political and Society Magazine. Retrieved from revistas.ucm.es.
Martin Cruz Santos. Popular religiosity as an element of cultural identity in contemporary Latin America. Retrieved from academia.edu.
Unesco. Convention on the protection of the world cultural and natural heritage. Retrieved from whc.unesco.org.
World Heritage and Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Retrieved from wikipeia.org.

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