Over the weekend I stumbled upon this article in Elite Daily that touches upon the cultural hybridity that children of immigrant parents experience. Bilingualism, cultural awareness and understanding and a camaraderie between other immigrant children are advantages the writer highlights in comparison to those who grow up with “one” culture. Those children, like myself, create a third culture resulting from growing up with one culture but also living in another.
“No, we are Mexican-American….Being Mexican-American is tough…Anglos jump all over you if you don’t speak English perfectly, Mexicans jump all over if you don’t speak Spanish perfectly. We have to be twice as perfect as anybody else…”
That’s why I loved my master’s program at DePaul University. Analyzing identity theories, exploring how we are constantly becoming, discussing our relation to others and self, understanding society’s power dynamics and rhetorics are some of the topics that racked my brain after working my 9-5 job and knowing I would have an hour plus commute ahead of me…but it was well worth it.
Selena came out when I was seven and that scene stayed with me since. Why? Because it struck a chord. At that age I moved to a predominately white neighborhood consequently my elementary school also reflected the new surroundings. As a child, I remember feeling somewhat embarrassed when shouting “mami” because for the rest of the children in school it was understood as “mommy.” They didn’t know about the meaning or spelling difference, and lets face it at eight years old you would think I move on to bigger words. I was raised to say mami vs. mamá—semantics and the latter for me has always connoted a more impersonal feel…So I swallowed the snickers, laughs and odd stares from some of my classmates, and whenever I needed to get my mom’s attention on a field trip or some other school function it would take more than my one quiet, feeble low-whisper “mami” attempt to get her to turn around.
Flash forward to a few years later to my 14 year old self at my school’s annual International Day where we celebrated cultures , my mom taught a group of us a traditional folkloric dance called Juan Colorado. She not only taught us the dance but made, yes made our skirts con olán (ruffles). It turned out to be one of the most authentic cultural performances my grade school had (and maybe has) ever seen. The salience of my culture has only strengthened as I become older—my sense of identity and understanding who I am has deepened due to the environments I’ve grown up in.
In keeping with the Thanksgiving spirit, yes, I’m thankful for many aspects of my life: family, health, friends, talents, my sense of humor, employment (to name a few), but one that can’t escape me is my herencia mexicana. I have a strong Mexican cultural identity thanks to my mom who has instilled in me the importance of embracing it. But I embrace it differently than her and in the process create a hybrid culture with one foot in each culture. Just as seen in the Selena scene, certain expectations are placed on me from both cultures, and I go about this world dancing with and around these cultural expectations. I’m thankful for my Mexican heritage that is rich in tradition, color, sound and taste.
*Title translates to “I’m not from here nor there”