Identity Crisis


The United States has always been known as the land of opportunity and freedom. American society is a free society made up of many immigrants and different cultures blended into one.However, for Mexicans living in the United States things are seen differently when it comes to "American" culture and society. For many Mexicans born and raised in the United States, the lack of knowledge and contact with Mexican culture and roots and is compounded by American pressures and influences. This situation leads to division among Mexicans: those who reject American society, those who seek to assimilate, and those who know and affirm Mexican culture and traditions.

Those who reject American society have a history going back to when Americans first started invading Texas in the 1800s, and perhaps even earlier. This was solidified with the war between Mexico and the United States which ended with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848. The treaty resulted in the United States taking the Mexican territories of California, Texas, and New Mexico in the name of the Manifest Destiny policy of the United States. These territories are currently known as the states of California, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, and Nevada. For many Mexicans today, California and the southwest are still considered to be part of Mexico, occupied by the foreign and hostile United States government. Each generation since the United States' invasion has learned for themselves the many reasons to reject and even despise "American" society, a society that rejects Mexican culture and oppresses by means of force, brutality, and institutionalized racism. Examples of this exist in all aspects of society, including education, employment, the legal system, unemployment, and politics. One of the most recent and public examples of this is California's Proposition 187, which targeted and used Mexicans as scapegoats for a racist governor's political campaign to get re-elected.

During the 1940s, pachucos got nation-wide attention and were the focal point for hatred and scapegoating for many Americans throughout the southwest. Pachucos were known for their zootsuits or "drapes," which in themselves were oppositional to society. At a time when materials were being rationed for World War II, pachucos were flaunting their suits made of twice the amount of material needed to make a "normal" suit. The zoot suit consisted of an extra long coat--down to the knees--extra padded shoulders, extremely baggy pants, a wide-brimmed hat, and a chain attached at the waist, which hung down to the ankle. Pachucos also created a unique style which included a Spanish slang known as calo. They also developed clicas, today known as gangs. Although many things have changed, many things have stayed the same when it comes to descendants of pachucos; today there are cholos (lowlifes, half breeds), known to the American public as gangsters.

Next, there are those who seek to assimilate even to the point of denying their Mexican roots, for acceptance by society and/or for material gain in society. These people are proud to call themselves "Hispanic," which is a government term created during the Nixon administration to group all Spanish-speaking people, although from different ethnic groups and cultures, into one. The word Hispanic also concentrates on Spanish, European roots rather than Mexican roots. The word Mexican itself is a native, indigenous name; it is English for Mexicano, which is Spanish for Mexica, better known as Azteca. Even though these people are Mexican, some of them will say they're "Spanish." These people may know little about their Mexican culture and have little contact with their Mexican roots, so they don't think anything of it when society calls them "Hispanic." However, some Mexicans know Mexican culture but reject it anyway and adopt "American" culture.

Some first- or second-generation living in the United States know Mexican culture and traditions. Many times they look down on Mexicans born and raised in the United States who don't know much about Mexican culture and traditions, or who do things differently, or who speak a different dialect of Spanish or don't speak Spanish at all. Language can be a big barrier. Many Mexicans who know Mexican culture refer to the "Americanized" Mexicans as pochos, which literally means the fruit that has fallen from the tree and become rotten. Mexicans born and raised in the United States sense this and as