So, what do you call yourself?
Well, me? I call myself by name, first and middle then my last name, and then proceed with other identifiers: male, 30-something, Chicagoan, Hoosier, Wildcat, Michoacano, and not last or least: Mexicano, Mexican-American, Latino and American. Yes, what the Pew research center found is correct to some degree. In yet another confounding aspect of U.S. Latinos, it’s clear that you can’t easily adhere labels to such a large and diverse group. And I think it points to the fact that identity is often often tied to personal history and experience.
In a report released earlier this month, the Pew Hispanic Center found that “… the labels still haven’t been fully embraced by the group to which they have been affixed.”
I can’t answer for everybody, but I’ll give you my reasons for accepting some of the labels and making sure others are not ignored or forgotten. As this blog’s title shows, it’s obvious that I accept Latino as a label. I do for two reasons: First, I come from Latin American, so I see some connection to my brothers and sisters of that vast region. We share some ties in history, and culture and ties through language.
I also accept the label for part of what it means here: We are a group. It is one way for us to identify that a bunch of us (certainly, not all of us) face similar issues. When it comes to working for rights, going to church, clamoring for recognition and acceptance into larger U.S. society — the label provides a shortcut for building up numbers.
And it works.
And it doesn’t.
That same simplicity can also work against us as it homogenizes our history and the way people see us. It erases the details in the filigree of our culture for a smooth, easy picture. That’s why I won’t let go of Mexican. Perhaps, that is why many of us won’t let go of these identities either.
My mother grew up in post-revolutionary Mexico — the time and place where Mexicaness first truly flourished as an identity. Even this new vision recognized a complex history. More on that in the future. And when we moved here, she brought those lessons with her. She taught us Spanish, the history of Mexico, our family’s story, and our cuisine among so many other lessons. And we learned them and honored her life and her teachings by continuing to see the world and ourselves through a slightly difference lens. For us, that meant we were still Mexicanos even in the United States.
You can read the full report here: http://www.pewhispanic.org/2012/04/04/ii-identity-pan-ethnicity-and-race/