What It means to be Mexican-American

Posted on May 24th, 2016

by Rocio

What it means to be Mexican-American

By: ADRIANNA UNZUETA – Miss Covergirl 2010 in Chicago

                    See More Blogs at:  Adriu.com

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Growing up in a Mexican household in America means that you are lucky enough to get the best of both worlds. That’s how I like to see it. We get our cake and eat it too. It means that I grew up speaking Spanish, woke up to salsa on Saturday mornings, and ate tamales for every holiday. It also means I grew up in a country where education is a priority and where there is opportunity for everyone. Sounds great, right? Well, the biggest blessing in my life is also one of my toughest challenges.

Looking at the glass half-full

I was sitting in my broadcast news class when I got hit with this friendly reminder. The class was discussing some of the most influential news journalists in today’s world like Lester Holt, Diane Sawyer, and Jon Stewart. As big as these names were, I sat there trying to mask my confusion and totally unfamiliar with who or what they were talking about. I consider myself a bright student. However, at this moment, I felt like a totally unprepared outsider. Instantly, I opened my Mac laptop and Googled these names. Two seconds later, my unfamiliarity made more sense.

Of course I didn’t recognize these influential broadcasters. I didn’t grow up watching NBC, CNN, or The Daily Show. The only networks my household ever had on were Univision and Telemundo. I could not tell you about the Katie Couric’s of the news world, but I could tell you about Rodner Figueroa’s latest scandal or about Jorge Ramos’ summary on the latest political debate. I had to reassure myself that just because I was not familiar with the names my peers were discussing, did not mean I was not as capable- it only meant I had to spend a little more time researching the English-speaking networks. What I thought to be a setback was actually an advantage. Those 50 minutes I spent in class that day reminded me that my bi-cultural brain had the privilege of being acquainted with both the American and Latin networks of today’s news and that I could relate to both.

Living outside the box

As relatable as either culture can be, self-identifying is the toughest battle. Sometimes you are neither Mexican nor American enough. My Spanglish is better than my English or Spanish alone, and is also the culprit for worsening my vocabulary in both. I like to see myself in a similar light. I am neither 100% Mexican nor 100% American but a nice combination of both.

Being an American born Latina is the irony in being automatically placed in a level 4 native speaking Spanish classes but then being criticized for my heavy American accent in Mexico. It is the irony in looking too Latin to win an American beauty pageant but then seeing the shock in peoples’ faces when they can’t believe that I am Mexican. Identifying myself is an ongoing journey. It is difficult to fit in the boundaries of either culture because neither can fully encompass the diversity of an American born to immigrant parents.

But that’s the beauty of being Mexican-American. You get the Justin Bieber but also the J Balvin. You get The Ellen Show but also Don Francisco’s Sábado Gigante. It is the feeling of excitement when the first Latin-American Pope visited the U.S. but also feeling an overwhelming sense of pride when I watched him land in Mexico.

Loud, proud, and ready to make a difference

According to the Pew Research Center, there are approximately 22.3 million individuals born in the United States that identify themselves as Hispanics of Mexican origin, and I am proud to say that I am one of them. Today’s world is all about breaking stereotypes, especially with the very controversial presidential elections going on. Mexican-Americans and all Latin Americans of this generation get to show the world exactly who we are and everything we are capable of.

Over the last 20 years, Hispanics have grown to be the second largest population in the U.S. We are not the labels that society has created. We are the next doctors, lawyers, and maybe even president one day. This generation of Mexican-Americans are educated individuals raised on the strong cultural values of family, hard work, and respect. Our immigrant parents and the examples they have set for us are living proof that nothing can stop someone from achieving their goals- not even unfamiliarity with the land or the language.

I am proud to be an American girl who was raised by “old-fashioned” Mexican parents.  I may never be American enough or Mexican enough, but my culturally enriched upbringing in this country has made me into the well-rounded person I am today.  I am privileged, not in a materialistic sense, but in the sense that I have the opportunity to represent the two worlds I live in and to be constantly learning from both.  It may be hard to fit in, but hey, living outside the box is what life is all about anyway.


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