Thursday, May 19, 2011

Not a 100% Mexican?

I Immigrated around 6 years ago to the United States from Mexico, and these years I've learned to assimilate to the U.S. society by embracing different customs as well as habits that allowed me to survive in this country. Even if I assimilated, I have always try not to forget about my Mexican roots, and keep my heritage strong.However, the other day someone asked me what I considered myself after having a large conversation about oneself identity. I answered, "I am Mexican" and he asked me back what percentage I was, so I said a 100%, but apparently for him I was definitely not a 100%. He said I was not a Mexican anymore, that I adopted "anglo ways," and that I pretended to be a Mexican, but I didn't know that I was forgetting about my roots. After hearing his words, I felt like I was being humiliated , betrayed, and I felt my identity being insulted. I just could not understand how someone who does not know what does it mean to establish in a foreign country feels with the right to criticize my own self being.

My friend who told me such words comes from an indigenous community in Mexico, and is in an exchange program at the University of Arizona, which means that he is still going back to Mexico, and will not really experience the struggle of staying and making a living in a foreign country. After his statements, I started thinking about the importance of teaching later immigrant generations about their roots and how that education would impact their life. Growing up as a minority in the United States almost seems that you have to forget about your heritage in order to be accepted and survive in society. However, I found out by living in this country that my own cultural roots helped me to survive in a diverse society. I believe the reason for this is because people who keep their own identity strong will have as a result a really high self-esteem that allows them to be secure of themselves.

Meanwhile the government in Arizona is trying to take away the right to oneself identity by creating HB 2281, which bans schools from teaching classes that are "designed for students who come from a specific ethnic group", promote "resentment or advocate a type of "ethnic solidarity" over treating students as individuals, and It bans the classes that teach students how to "overthrow" the government of the United States. The classes that the bill is referring to are Mexican American/ chicano history, African American studies or Native American studies, between other ethnic studies classes that allow minority groups living in the U.S. to learn and have a better understanding about their own background and cultural history. Such law is basically a cultural genocide, and it's forcing children to stop being who they really are in order to start pretending to be someone else.

After SB1070 and now the presence of HB 2281 has made the Tucson community more sensitive and aware towards the issue of immigration and racism. For example, Tucson looks like a ghost town where businesses are closed and myriad of houses are being sold since after SB1070 was signed the economy of the state of Arizona started to have a great deficit, and adult latinos are not teaching their children spanish because they're afraid of being mistreated and not accepted by others for speaking a different language that would no be English. In other words the community is being dehumanize, dishonored and insulted as I felt when my friend told me that I was not the human being who I considered myself to be; that's when I realized that nobody has the right to tell us who we are; it is in our own hands to discover our identity and in order to do this we need to learn more about our past, but how are we going to be educated about our ethnic background and our ancestors if we're denied the right to be part of this country's history?


matt Matera said...

absolutely inspiring!

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