Oral tradition

Oral tradition

The oral tradition is a rich and complex phenomenon, which became the most used means throughout the centuries to transfer knowledge and experiences. Its multiple definitions coincide in pointing out that it represents the sum of knowledge –codified in oral form– that a society deems essential and which, therefore, retains and reproduces in order to facilitate the memorization, and through it the diffusion to the present and the future. The transmitted information includes knowledge and customs on topics as different as history, myths and sacred texts, techniques, political institutions, music, linguistic exercises, ethical and moral codes ...

This fragile miracle is formed by a heterogeneous set of memories and understandings of the past interspersed with experiences of the present and expectations of the future. It is born and developed within the community as a spontaneous expression that seeks to preserve identities beyond oblivion and the disappearance of generations. It maintains an intimate bond with the group of people who produce it and with its social, intellectual and spiritual dynamics: in fact, it flexibly adapts to its changes, its developments and its crises, and is transmitted verbally and personally, allowing the strengthening of social ties and community structures, the development of socialization and education processes, the maintenance of cultural (re)creation spaces and the proper and careful use of one's own language.

The development of oral tradition is independent of supports and structures. This characteristic absence of material stability gives it a constant and conflicting variability, not exempt of problems. By the mere fact of being transmitted by word of mouth and from generation to generation, it slowly transforms, loses content, gains new elements daily, and even adapts to the needs of the group, responding to their struggles and cultural pressures.

It should be emphasized that oral tradition is not limited to its verbal aspect: words are deeply related to gestures and objects with which they are intrinsically linked.

This system was not limited to providing foundations and structures to the intellectual reality of ancient (and modern) peoples who did not develop or acquire writing systems or who were unable to access literacy programs. It also remained within literate groups, because there is no branch of human activity that does not have a corpus of oral traditions related to past formulas, recipes and experiences. In contemporary urban groups, it had a strong development among those sectors that did not find space in written texts to express their opinions, sometimes "not important", alternatives or opposed to the dominant official discourses.

Thus, an immense set of invisible and silent voices, past and present, in traditional societies or in the midst of big cities, sought refuge in the domains of oral tradition.