I Am 100% 3rd Generation {Ra}

100% is a guest post series focusing on multicultural identity and the unique journey of connecting with more than one culture. To share your story, click here.

Sometimes I wonder if other people think about their cultural identity as much as I do.  

While thinking about cultural identity can leave you thinking a lot about yourself, I’ve realized that those mostly self-focused thoughts end up greatly impacting the life and people around you. And when it comes to learning how to be in cross-cultural relationships, knowing your cultural identity becomes really important.  

My journey with understanding and accepting my heritage has shaped the way I live in the world.  It’s shaped how I choose to use my voice, what I advocate for, and what I want my life to be about. 

I grew up right outside of Los Angeles and spent my childhood years riding my bike with my cousins to the local park and playing boby-sox softball. I also spent my childhood taking floklorico (Mexican folk dancing) classes, learning how to make tamales from my nana and aunts every Christmas, and being around people that looked a lot like me.  

Both my parents are second generation Mexican-American, and while I did not grow up speaking Spanish as a second language, our family’s Mexican culture was all around us. Being third and fourth generation Mexican-American was normal for me.   

Most of my friends were third generation Mexican-American, and there was always this unspoken awareness of the cultural tension we lived in. We didn’t speak Spanish, but we could understand it and string a few words together. 

We knew our culture, but also felt the draw to let it go.

It wasn’t until I went away to college that I began to realize that how I viewed my cultural identity was not necessarily how others perceived me. “You’re not that kind of Mexican” or ”I’m glad you speak English!” were comments I heard throughout my four years living in the Pacific Northwest.  

Sometimes I felt glad that I had made the cut, that I had been accepted by my classmates despite their preconceived thoughts about me after hearing my last name. This was how I had come to view my cultural identity at this point.   

My “Mexican-ness” was something that had come to be surprising, tolerated and accepted based on what was acceptable, or normal, to my friends who had grown up in a homogenous culture. Likewise, I had no want or desire to cultivate my Mexican cultural identity past what I had known and learned as a kid. 

My attitude towards my cultural identity has drastically changed. Coupled with this change has been a growing desire to develop a greater language and understanding around cultural and racial awareness.   

No, I do not speak Spanish fluently. No, I have never been to Mexico nor do I have a strong connection to strong cultural traditions. 

I am a third generation Mexican-American and I love my heritage. 

I think there is a beautiful ability that we who represent the third, fourth, etc generations have. We have the ability to return, to come back to and  re-learn our families histories. We have the ability to come back to the culture that we have spent (consciously and sub-consciously) letting go of. 

As I continue to live in different parts of the U.S., I am reminded that cultural awareness and sensitivity is something that we, as people who honor the dignity of others, should be talking about. The more we position ourselves to only be around people like us, the more we develop perceptions and stereotypes that can be damaging, limiting, and ultimately dehumanizing.   

We are not the same.  And learning to be in relationship with others of a different cultural background requires an awareness of this simple truth.  

I am a third generation Mexican-American woman.  How I see the world, interact with others, and live my life is shaped strongly by this identity.   

What is your cultural identity?  How has it impacted how you live, act, and think?  Think about it…it could have a greater impact than you may realize.

Ra graduated from Eastern University’s Campolo College of Graduate and Professional Studies in community development in 2013. She loves to write and play music, sit at coffee shops, and finger paint (she claims to be quite good). She has a life goal to meet Brandi Carlile. She works with Mission Year as the Philadelphia City Director. You can find Ra on Twitter.

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1 comment

  1. Ra, I'm so thankful for the ways you've challenged me to think more deeply about my cultural and racial identity! Thanks for sharing your own journey here and in real life. So excited for your new adventures in Philly! :)


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