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Assimilation and Acculturation

Assimilation is a process in which people with a different culture of origin completely adapt to the culture of residency, leaving behind traits from their culture of origin. That has been the expected social standard in the US. Yet, Latinos have not and will not assimilate. Latinos and Americans are “acculturating” to each other. Acculturation and assimilation are two different terms and should not be used interchangeably.

Huicholes: Los Últimos Guardianes del Peyote / The Last Peyote Guardians

A story about the Wixárika People, one of the last living Pre-Hispanic cultures in Latin America, and their struggle to preserve Wirikuta, their most sacred territory and the land where the peyote grows, the traditional medicine that keeps alive the knowledge of this iconic people of Mexico.

Una historia acerca del Pueblo Wixárika, una de las últimas culturas prehispánicas vivas en Latinoamérica, y su lucha ante el gobierno mexicano y corporaciones transnacionales mineras para preservar Wirikuta, su territorio más sagrado y la tierra donde crece el peyote, la medicina ancestral que mantiene vivo el conocimiento de este pueblo emblemático de México.

Available at/Disponible en: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/huicholesfilm

Mexicans: The More Segregation, the Less Assimilation.

By Mari D. González

The less segregation, the more assimilation. It is a give and take situation.

~Altar de Muertos~

~Altar de Muertos~ (Photo credit: uteart)

The highest level of education a Latin American immigrant has, the more willing he/she is to assimilate. Yet, he/she gives up his cultural origins. In terms of their level of integration in the U.S., there are implications for both the Mexicans and the more assimilated Latin American groups in the U.S. While the later might enjoy greater economical benefits than Mexicans, Mexicans is the only ethnic group that has kept its cultural roots generation after generation at the expense of not enjoying such economical benefits.

While Mexicans have refused to assimilate, they have influenced the U.S. culture in every way. A couple hundred years from now, the only culture alive in the U.S. will be the Mexican (Dia de los Muertos, piñatas, mariachi, tacos, etc.). The rest will be passing technology, brands, and disposable things. Mexicans have the ability to layer several cultures without renouncing their own. I’m very proud of every single bilingual and bicultural Mexican-American in the U.S.

Accents Are in the Ear of the Beholder

Joven chino-mexicano en la Alameda Central

Image via Wikipedia

By Mari D. González

Personally, I love accents. They tell me that the speaker is non-native, definitely bilingual and thus, intriguing. Accents define a person socioculturally and correlate to the individual’s upbringing and ethnic, national, or group identity. Some accents are more difficult to understand, some are less melodious, and some might annoy us. Some simply take time to get used to. Yet, our evaluations are subjective and relative to our individual context or opinion.

As a medical interpreter, I am accustomed to accents others might wish to avoid. In California, there are immigrants in many different professions. From time to time, I interpret for doctors from China and India who are not understood clearly by patients with good English fluency. I have concluded that such difficulty is due to the patients’ lack of familiarity with people from China or India. Or, perhaps they are not as intrigued as I am by different accents.

Why was I prompted to write about accents? I just read a white paper on Hispanic marketing written by a South American author who speaks to the need to “diminish [one’s] accent” because “having a Spanish accent [is seen as] a minus.”

My Mexican colleagues do not discuss “accent reduction,” though they may promote better pronunciation as the way to be better understood. As a Peruvian, the white paper’s author is speaking for Peruvians and to Peruvians, not necessarily for or to other Latinos/Hispanics or for that matter to the ones who make up the majority among them, Mexicans.

According to the Pew Hispanic Center country of origin profiles (2009), Mexicans make up 65.5% of Latinos/Hispanics in the U.S. and Peruvians 1.2%. The latter are not a significant presence in any large U.S. metro area unlike Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Salvadorians, and Cubans. Thus, this isolated “accent” perspective is too limited to consider as an overall Latino/Hispanic concern.

Based on personal observations, Peruvians demonstrate a greater desire to assimilate than Mexicans. As a Mexican myself, I find offensive to even bring it up because it indicates a desire to fit in instead of integrate. Mexicans have a different perception of assimilation and actually oppose it. This opposition might be the response to the never-ending socioeconomic friction that began with the clashing of the two cultures when the U.S. – Mexican border was in dispute and, following a war, was re-defined.

The background of the current state of Latinos/Hispanics in the U.S. is the Chicano Movement, whether we agree with it or not. The Chicano Movement is a point in history that precedes where we are as a cultural group now. It marks the second developmental stage of group identity formation, which is conflict.

The first stage is identification with the dominant culture. In other words, a desire to eliminate what makes one different from members of the dominant culture or assimilation. The author is implying being at the first developmental stage of group identity formation or having a preference for an Anglo Orientation according to the research by Vasti Torres.

I suggest that the author of the white paper become familiar with the writings of historian Rodolfo Acuña and philosopher Gloria Anzaldua, researchers such as Hayes-Bautista or Amado Padilla, and the more contemporary journalist, Gregory Rodriguez—not  because they relate to Peru’s history but because they relate to the history of Latinos/Hispanics in the U.S. and because such history left a huge mark in the consciousness of our predecessors moving them into the second stage of identity formation.

I’d love to see more research-based versus opinion-based information on the topic of assimilation, ethnic identity and the relevance of accents. We can certainly produce it. We need more new and fresh facts about these topics instead of recycling what goes viral online.

UPDATE: In 2018, we are seen a fairly good integration by the majority of Latinos/Hispanics–the millennials–into the US society. This demonstrates two facts, 1) Hispanic Marketing is facing out because the general market is becoming more Hispanic/multicultural, 2) younger Latinos/Hispanics have integrated into a society that is less white and more ethnic and multicultural.