By Mari D. González
How come Colombians and Iranians get upset when confused by Mexicans, at least the few I have come across. As a Mexican, I do not mind being identified as Colombian, Iranian, or any other ethnic group.
In general, people learn the “classifications of class” early in life as part of what becomes unconscious enculturative values. Most of us in the U.S., through enculturation -at home or school- or acculturation -dominant social values communicated by TV, school, or in the workplace, have learned the meaning of “ethnifying class,” or giving a particular nationality, color, or ethnicity a corresponding socioeconomic rank based on the dominant culture’s hierarchical perceptions.
Mexicans, aside from Canadians, are the only ones who cross just one border to get to the U.S. Thus, working-class families and farmers from Mexico can make it to the north less expensively than people from further south or further east.
Colombia and Iran mainly export citizens who are able to pay their way to the U.S. via “visas.” Most farmers and working-class people from those countries cannot afford to pay to cross many borders and they stay behind. In Mexico, however, the less financially-able are the ones who are more willing to risk everything “el todo por el todo” to go to the U.S.
In line with the dominant cultural stereotype, Mexicaness must equal lower class. Yet, when well-off Mexicans travel to the U.S. for business, shopping, or attending school as international students, their ethnicity is less of an issue.
Edited by Connie Cobb