Last Updated 07 Jul 2020

Cultural Identity Interview and Analysis

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An interview with a member of the Mexican American community was conducted on December 1st, 2007. This research will provide a summary of that interview; particularly, it will include a description of the rules, norms, traditions, and values of Mexican American culture. The research will also discuss: a) how the assumptions regarding cultural norms affect the interviewee’s behavior in his daily life; b) any disadvantages related to his culture being outside “the norm” and how he reacts to that; c) any advantages related to being assimilated to the “normative” culture and how he reacts; d) his sources of strength or support; e) an analysis of the four dimension theory and how it relates to the interviewee’s life.

Finally, the research will provide some insight on how one can effectively communicate with people of other cultures. In fact, communication with various members that belong to other ethnic groups (i.e. Arab Americans, Hipic Americans, African Americans, etc) may be difficult some at times because of the cultural difference that exists between the groups. Jose Luis Aguilar was born in Tijuana, Mexico on January 7th, 1972. Mexican is the ethnic group he belongs. He lived in Mexico for 29 years. In 2001, he immigrated in Los Angeles, California. Job opportunities, presence of family members, and the presence of a massive Mexican community were the factors that brought him to immigrate into the United States. Mexican Americans are the largest Hipic or Latino ethnic group in the United States.

According to the 2000 Census, approximately 20 million Hipic or Latinos of the 35 million in the United States are Mexican Americans (U.S. Census, 2000). Mr. Aguilar’s native language is Spanish. However, during the past years spent in California, he was able to learn basic English, although it remains a second language as the majority of the Mexican American who live in the United States. Richard Schaefer stated “as of 2002, about 23 percent of Mexican Americans are English dominant, 26 percent are bilingual, and 51 percent are Spanish dominant” (Schaefer, 2006, p. 241). Mr. Aguilar’s religion is Catholic. Indeed, Mexican Americans represent “the largest number of Catholic immigrants to the United States comes from Mexico; Mexico also sends the largest number of Protestant immigrants to the United States” (Murray, 2006).

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Mr. Aguilar is married. He has a 1 year-old son. Aguilar’s family has a patriarchal organization as the same as other many Mexican American families have. According to Kathleen Niska, Mexican Americans Families “continuity was characterized by mothers doing tasks inside the house, fathers doing tasks outside the house, and both parents performing toddler and early childhood tasks” (Niska, 2001). One of the Mexican traditions that Mr. Aguilar mentioned during the interview was “quinceanera”. This ritual is celebrated in church when women reach the age of 15 to thank God that they arrived to this stage of their lives. Similar to a wedding day celebration, the celebration of a girl's fifteenth birthday is a major event in most Hipic girls’ lives as it means that she begins her journey to adulthood (Mattel, 2001).

They are ready to get married. The ritual of quinceanera is viewed not only as a gesture to strengthen faith and family but also as a means to prevent teen pregnancies. A quinceanera also allows for sending a message of sexual responsibility (NC Times, 2008). Mr. Aguilar is an independent contractor mainly for real estate management companies. He provides general maintenance services at $10 an hour. So far, he had limited choices regarding the jobs (e.g. janitorial, landscaping, and maintenance) he could do since he moved into United States. Lack of education and his pending status with INS (he has not received his green card yet, work permit only) were the obstacles that did not allow him to obtain better paid jobs.

According to David Spener, “Mexican immigrant workers play an important economic role inside the United States as well. They constitute a significant portion (8 percent) of the total U.S. manufacturing work force” (Spener, 2000). Mexican Americans are usually have been seen by American companies as “cheap labor”. Mr. Aguilar shared that members of his culture had been affected by any form of racism, prejudice or discrimination. In particular, he pointed out the bilingualism issue and the tension that the proposition 227 created among his community. Proposition 227 went into effect in 1998 and required that all public school instruction had to be in English.

A) How do assumptions about cultural “norms” impact your interviewee’s behavior on a day-to-day basis? Mr. Aguilar pointed out how one particular assumption regarding Mexican Americans culture affects his life on a day-to-day basis. He mentioned that one of his cousins was a gang member; he was killed months ago. A popular assumption is that Mexican American gang membership is generational which means the membership from a father to a son or from a family member to another one. Therefore, based on this assumption, people believe that he is a gang member. So, Mr. Aguilar’s behavior is direct to prevent anything that may mislead people in this sense, e.g. wearing red or blue, or specific clothing, or having tattoos.

B) Does your interviewee recognize any challenges or disadvantages related to her/his culture being outside the “norm”? How does he/she respond to those challenges? Similar to several other fellow Mexican Americans, Mr. Aguilar is able to communicate in his native language without learning English properly. In fact, Spanish language is commonly spoken in the city of Los Angeles. Almost every place (grocery stores, restaurants, public offices, and so forth) has signs and directions in Spanish language. This massive promotion of Mr. Aguilar’s native language in the United States encouraged by Mass Media represents a disadvantage.

Radio and television have also been factors that allowed Mexican Americans, as Mr. Aguilar, to maintain their original cultural values. In fact, in 2004, there were over 678 Spanish language radio stations compared to 1982, when there were 12 Spanish language television stations in the United States. This number more than doubled within 10 years. Several artists (e.g. Jennifer Lopez or Shakira) helped to promote their cultures by singing in their traditional languages (Jandt, 2007). Mr. Aguilar has responded to this challenge by enrolling himself in an adult school in order to improve his English. However, as of today, he is still struggling to write, read and speak English fluently.

C) Does your interviewee recognize any privileges or advantages associated with assimilating to the “normative” culture? How does he/she react to that recognition? Mr. Aguilar recognized that being assimilated to the “normative” culture has some advantages. In particular, he stated that a positive aspect is that immigrants learn the language of the “normative” culture; they are able to avoid any form of isolation and segregation. Furthermore, these immigrants likely will not face any prejudice from the dominant society as he experienced during his stay in the United States.

During the interview Mr. Aguilar recalled a few family acquaintances with 3rd generation sons and daughters who had an adaptation in the American culture different compared to their parents. In fact, they were able to go to school, learn the language, get a college education, and obtain a good job. They became a part of the American culture. In fact, they celebrate the 4th of July and the Thanksgiving, which are truly American holidays. They also had to learn about professional sports other than Mexican soccer. He now is also watching baseball, basketball, and American football games.

D) What does that person cite as being sources of strength or support? Mr. Aguilar cited church and family as his sources of strength or support. As many others fellow Mexicans Americans, Mr. Aguilar gives exceptional importance to religion and family on a day-to-day basis; he is very active in his community especially with humanitarian initiative promoted by his catholic church. Mr. Aguilar is very family orientated. He tries to spend as much time as possible with his family; it may be common to see him doing business with his families around.

E) An analysis of the four dimension theory and how it relates to the interviewee’s life A theory from the course that was well related to Mr. Aguilar’s interview is the “four dimensions of culture” by Geert Hofstede. Particularly, Aguilar’s interview confirmed that in the Mexican culture masculinity is predominant, mostly due its history. Mexican families were mainly patriarchal therefore men were in charge of the family; they were working to provide money and food while women were at home taking care of the children. Mexican culture is based more on collectivism due mainly to the fact that more people with financial difficul

ties seek to one another for help or gather together (e.g. two or three families living in the same apartment). Power distance is embodied in the Mexican culture. Mexico is a developing country with significant financial problems. The difference between people (e.g. poor and rich people) is well marked. Finally, the fourth dimension, uncertainty avoidance, is correlated to religion and history of the cultures (Jandt, 2007). Roman Catholic Christian cultures and cultures with Romance languages (e.g. Mexico) tend to score high. In conclusion, communication with various members that belong to other ethnic groups may be difficult at times because of the cultural difference that exists between the groups.

However, inclusive language can be an effective way to communicate with such members. Mr. Aguilar and the interviewer are from different culture backgrounds. There were times during the interview where inclusive language was used to avoid miscommunication. Choosing the right words when communicating with members who have different backgrounds may help to prevent miscommunication that may end up stereotyping them on the basis of race, gender, disability, religion, or other factors. Furthermore, conducting research and gathering information on members with different backgrounds may help not only to overcome language issues but also can assist people in becoming more culturally sensitive.

References

http://nsq.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/14/4/322

http://www.nctimes.com/articles/2008/01/05/faith/17_56_271_3_08.txt

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