Cultural identity is CRUCIAL in how we perceive ourselves and others. Over 7% of Americans identity as having TWO or more cultural backgrounds. For some, like Maria Portillo (POR-tee-oh), sophomore at St. Edward’s, FITTING into either culture can be difficult at times, but has also allowed her to be more open and accepting of other cultures.
Maria: When I was a kid, I was raised in a predominantly Mexican culture, so I wasn’t allowed to do a lot of things, like people would have sleepovers and I didn’t know what that was until I was in middle school and a lot of kids really didn’t understand that. When I was in Mexico, I remember getting made fun of a lot and kind of put a stigma on me that I wasn’t a “true Mexican” because I didn’t know the politics of the country, the economy, or the set traditions of the town that my parents are from. And so when I would speak English, they would kind of make fun of me and call me “gringa” which means white girl and I just remember feeling upset about that because I didn’t feel as if I was a white person, like I felt like I was Mexican. But in their eyes because I lived in this country and spoke English I was considered to be American. Being here I don’t feel like it is a big deal that I am Mexican-American and I feel like at least in this community we encourage diversity so I’ve never felt out of place or have had to stick with one identity.
She discusses how she tried to assimilate into white AMERICAN culture, and leave behind her MEXICAN culture.
Maria: When I was in middle school I kind of became obsessed with trying to be American. I think I just wanted to fit in with everyone that I was around and so I remember just hating being Mexican and I wished that I had blonde hair and pale skin and blue eyes. I just remember really wanting to be a part of this American culture of being like a true American because in the media I saw a lot of stigmas attached to Mexican-Americans and I just didn’t want to have that as a part of my identity so I was trying to assimilate into that culture, into American culture. Obviously, it never worked and honestly up until recently I have been proud of being Mexican and having two different cultures that I can relate to.
While Maria has had some difficulty ASSIMILATING completely to both cultures and maintaining both cultures equally within herself, she also found some of the BENEFITS of being bi-cultural.
Maria: Having two different identities has kind of helped me spread the traditions and language of my ancestral background, some of our traditions or words in Spanish, so I think that I’ve kind of got two worlds in one where I can relate to a multitude of people in different countries. And I think that will eventually help me travel the world and be more of an open person because I come from a background where everyone is different and that encourages diversity as well.