Im not really sure if i qualify as a first generation American. I googled it and apparently I am a second generation American because my parents immigrated and settled here so that makes me second..? I always thought the first person from your family to be born in another country than that of your origin makes you first generation, but I guess I might be wrong.
Anyway, lets just say that the latter s true, then I consider myself a first generation American. Growing up with a culture different from everyone else was definitely a blessing and in some ways a curse. Its great to have people ask me about how I celebrate certain holidays and what traditions and new ideas I can bring to the table. I don’t get offended easily when people ask me about my race or culture, I do take pride in my Mexican roots and the way I was brought up. The only part that you can say is a curse is that growing up it gets hard to relate to most people and you tend to stick with what you know. Growing up I had friends of all races and religions. Once I reached high school and began having a social life I realized that it was easier for me to relate to latinos and other minority groups and easier for me to hang out with them. For example, we all relate in that our parents were pretty over protective and did not let us go to anyones house unless they knew exactly who we were visiting and made sure the parents were going to be present and that most of the people there were friends they have met or heard of. We had to be polite, so if my friends ever came over and didn’t at least acknowledge my parents presence and say “hi, nice to meet you.” You best believe that was the last time that happened. Not necessarily because my parents told me but because I always made sure I took care of it before they said anything and I know how important it is for Latino parents to not want their kids to be “mal educados” (poorly educated) so I would either make my friends say hi or just stop hanging out with them. =P
I wasn’t allowed to dictate my life and up until I was 22 and married I ALWAYS asked for permission (or let them know ahead of time) about going anywhere, told them where I was going, who I was going with and what were doing and how long I would take. Sounds exhausting? Well you get used to it after having done it since…well… birth! I was one of those kids that always announced I was going to the bathroom because I distinctly remember a time my mom was yelling out my name and looking for me and I got in trouble for not responding cause I was in the bathroom and couldn’t yell loud enough. So after that day I always told her where I was going and she’d get mad at me for being all extra about it but I was just avoiding getting into trouble.
Growing up in the US and being latino can be quite exhausting. I guess depending on where you live. Because I grew up in California, wait let me be more specific, in SOUTHERN California, being latino wasn’t as big of a deal. I personally never experienced any kind of racism, maybe because I don’t assume people are being racist or because I really never found myself in a situation like that. I hope it stays that way now that I’ve moved to another state. Back in California we have all the goods we need in all the stores, the best Mexican restaurants and taco trucks, and most people are also latino and speak Spanish. I loved growing up there and am super grateful that I did. Its not so hard to find latino communities and people you can relate to. Because everyone south of the United States is a Spanish speaking country or Latino country, most immigrants here are from there and we always settle and establish a great community with stores and events wherever we go. We create programs to help those in our communities achieve their goals and have some perks and access to certain resources that could help us with work or school just for being part of a minority group. So in that sense I am grateful that my parents came here and stayed in California.
So why is it hard sometimes? Being Latino here is difficult for a few reasons. The main one that I can think of is that we need to accommodate ourselves in both the American and Latino culture. If theres a Latino that has never been to a quinceañera, eaten any kind of latino comfort food, or speak Spanish, then its usually the stink eye for them. I know because I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve low key (or sometimes high key) judged someone who’s latino and has no latino traditions or speaks the language. I know its not their fault but then I always wonder about who was the culprit in stopping those traditions. Now when it comes to the other side, we have to show the Americans that we are American enough. Celebrate independence day, know the culture references, and their traditions as well. I feel in a lot of cases we tend to lean more to one side than the other and thats how we end up with our group of friends and acquaintances.
Anyway, like I mentioned before, I grew up 100% Mexican, with all the holiday, birthday and cultural traditions being from Mexico. So I ended up with all hispanic friends who are all first generation as well. Im sure if I was more americanized growing up Id probably have friends who share American traditions and values. It may seem as if all I did was hang out with a bunch of Mexicans in high school, well thats not what I’m saying. I hung out with all kinds of individuals. What I AM saying is that out of all those people the ones I got closest too and hung out with outside of school are all those who had an upbringing similar to mine. To this day I still remain close to them and see them once in a while.
Of course the biggest negative of being Latino in this country, and I think this applies to any minority coming to the US, its that you run the risk of being a victim of racism and prejudices. Its a shame that in such a developed nation, we still have losers who think this country belongs to the anglo community. And to make things worse theres a large number of people of color who turns out are prejudice against their own race and other minority groups…that is something I will never and don’t want to understand. Of course as history shows and the whole world knows, the only OG’s who have a right to kick all of us out are the natives. Sooooo, stop being a dumb racist
Theres also that lingering feeling you have throughout some parts of your life where you feel like a second class citizen. However, I’ve learned thats not true for some people. This remind me of a conversation I had with a friend. He was born in Mexico but was brought to California by his U.S. born parents as a baby, so he has no memory or life in Mexico, he was just born there. Anyway, one day he calls me and tells me his brother and SO were upset at him for wanting to put a U.S. flag on his truck. I immediately understood where his bro and SO were coming from, because I would probably give him a hard time too. I bring this up because I want people to know that there is no shame in being proud of where you come from and just the same as being proud of where you ended up.
So he was told “why would you that? You’re Mexican.”
Here is logic and it makes lots of sense but I didn’t grow up thinking that way and I never considered it; He truly identifies as an American, he doesn’t like being identified as Mexican-American because he says he’s never even been to Mexico nor has Mexico done anything for him. He grew up here, he studied here and got his degree here and he owes everything he has to this country. He hates the idea that any of his achievements might’ve anything to do with his ethnicity. He just wants to be seen as an American and that’s it.
What do you guys think about that?
I mean, it makes sense to me and I respect his opinion. I think a little different though.
I was born in CA and raised in CA. I was the very FIRST person on both sides of my family to be born in the U.S. I grew up knowing that I was Mexican and proud of it. I grew up very similarly to my friend. But my parents are 1000% Mexican with Mexican traditions. I grew up with all kinds of friends but found myself with mostly kids of immigrant parents. I was told that being born here was a blessing and a open door to so many unimaginable opportunities. Still, I grew being very proud of where I came from and not so proud of what the American people represented. To me wearing or owning any american anything would be like turning my back on my roots. I know that sound ridiculous but I grew up seeing movies and people who own U.S. flags as fat, ignorant, racist jerks. Not respectable people. To me the flag doesnt represent freedom or patriotism, it represent ignorance and nationalism. I don’t want to get into any politics but I see it that way more now than I ever have. And not because I was told or bought to think that way, because my only experiences with observing “patriotism” in this country have been negative. I just don’t see it as a necessity to sport a flag of where you are because youre already there, being there is your patriotism at work. You can however sport where you are from to show the world that if you can do it they can do it too.
So theres that……
Since Ive moved to Utah its been quite a cultural shock for me in that sense. I am surprised at the amount of latinos coming into this state and was taken a back at the statistics of migration into Utah. However, back home we went to church, school and work with mostly Latinos and other minority groups. Here its quite different. Neither of us go to school anymore so there that, and my husband is the only one that works and he’s spoken more english since he got here than he’s ever had to his whole life. the work culture for him is a little different for sure. then theres church, this one was on us and we decided to attend the english congregation just to see and because we didn’t think we’d stay in the area for more than a year. This has been the hardest for me I think, I do like our ward and everyone has been so nice and really turned off that mentality I had that Utah might have a bunch of self righteous patriotic trump supporting racist homophobic wierdos. (no offense Utah) I fell into the ignorant pot of being prejudice that I judge so much before gaining any kind of knowledge and getting to know people. I needed to check myself before I wrecked myself.
There are definitely more U.S. flags here that over there and luckily I’ve seen less MAGA hats here than I did over in CA. (we did live in a pretty conservative town back home so it kinda makes sense. We live in college town now)
Utah has been good to us and even though I miss having access to Chinatown, Korea Town, little Armenia and lets not forget All the Mexican stores, markets and street vendors in LA and OC, I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to really be in a place where I really am a minority. I can get to know those who I feared and those who might fear me can see that I’m pretty legit. 😉
In short,I am proud to come where I came from and I am proud to be in this country and for the opportunity I have been given to have the freedom to create some sort of platform as well as to getting to know so many different people and opening my eyes to my own prejudices and working on fixing them. I love my roots and I plan to continue holding them near and dear to me. I plan on learning more about both my Mexican and American cultures and giving my future family the best of both worlds, like Hanna Monata. ;P
Are you guys first generation anything? please share your experiences!
“Your identity is your most valuable possession. Protect it.” – Elastigirl, The Incredibles