The recent blog post on the Latino Cultural Academy, along with catching CNN’s Soledad O’Brien’s Black in America, and my current “on the nightstand” read, Bilingual Is Better, I can’t keep “identity” out of my mind right now. Honestly, since moving away from our family nine years ago, I’ve been more conscious of my identity than ever before. Why is it that for some people, cultural identity is such a huge part of their lives? Why is it that for some people, it doesn’t matter?
I grew up in a Mexican neighborhood for the majority of my childhood and when my parents decided to move I had no problem making friends with non-Latinos, I was aware of our differences but it never occurred to me that others might perceive my diversification of friends as a slap to my culture. When I was in high school, I thought that perhaps I needed to make more of an effort at demonstrating my Mexicanismo after I had just been accused by a Latina girl of “acting white”.
I tend to be the one in our family who talks a lot about our background while socializing and when meeting new people (and I gravitate to those who speak Spanish). I’m starting to notice that Jose doesn’t bring up our heritage to the new people we meet as much as I do. I mean, we both instill so much Mexican culture and the Spanish language to our boys because we have not met any other Mexican-American families in our area, and we live away from our family, I feel like I always have to talk about it. Is it pride? Maybe I pay too much attention to the huge cultural diversity here in the East Coast that I want our own to stand out. Or maybe I feel that recently Mexico has been badly portrayed and so many have issues with immigration that I want to shout out, “Hey, look how well this first-generation from Mexican immigrants turned out! And there are so many amazing, talented, smart and good Mexican-American friends we want you to meet!”
Just like I love to share our experiences with people that are not of Hispanic descent, when I meet other Latinos here, the conversation always turns to bilingualism in our home, the struggle of our parents, our education…our common experience. I can’t help but think though that if I were in Chicago, in the community I grew up in and stayed in for 28 years, I wouldn’t be having this conversation so much. Does that mean I wouldn’t have the conversation with our non-Latino friends? If I were still in Chicago would I be defending my background to the shop clerk who just said, “Oh, you don’t LOOK Mexican”? My children would be surrounded my both sides of their Mexican family, so would their experience with the culture just be more “natural” in Chicago?
We just had Diego’s second kindergarten conference and once again his teachers wanted us to know how proud Diego comes across when speaking to his classmates about his culture and background (he is apparently giving Spanish lessons too!). For so many reasons, that makes me so proud. Does it matter? Absolutely. Would it be different if there were others like him? Maybe.
Is it only me? If you live in a predominant Latino neighborhood: are you having this conversations as often as I am?
IF you don’t live in a predominantly Latino neighborhood: do bring up your heritage as often as I do?
Please don’t feel you have to be Latino to comment! 😉