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Hispanic assimilation and acculturation

Erika Patino, Director

In the second blog in this 3-part Hispanic retro-acculturation series, Ana Villodres wrote about how her teenage son went from being uninterested in his Hispanic heritage to wanting to learn more about it. In the last blog in this series on Hispanic retro-acculturation, Erika Patino writes about how her husband went from acculturated Hispanic to bicultural.

We usually hear about acculturation in the context of someone coming from one country to another. After spending enough years in the new country, they move from unacculturated to bicultural. However, acculturation is more like a pendulum where a person can move back and forth depending on life stage or other life changes.

Growing up, my father instilled me and my siblings the importance of cultural heritage; he insisted that I speak Spanish whenever possible, cherish our traditions, and remember where we came from. He insisted that Mexican cuisine is “the best,” that English was for general utility and for conducting business, while “Spanish was for speaking to God” (as he poetically put it). However, growing up in this country inevitably led me to be more bicultural due to media influence as well as school and friends/family. Suffice it to say, my siblings and I grew up immersed in both cultures and regularly code-switching depending on where we were and who we were with.

Hispanic cultural identityEnter my husband, an acculturated Hispanic. He grew up in a similar family configuration – first-generation, parents spoke minimal English outside of the home, spoke Spanish 100% of the time at home, and attended family parties with tías, tíos, and primos. One would think my husband would have had similar Hispanic assimilation and acculturation, but that wasn’t the case - not by a long shot. In fact, when he first met my parents, I was astounded to hear him speak Spanish to them, and they struggled to understand his Spanglish vocabulary. He was oblivious to Hispanic pop culture and didn’t understand most of my parents’ references.

Once we married, he started practicing his Spanish with my parents, listened to Spanish music, and became curious about his cultural background. When asked why this changed, he shared that it was very important to him that he be able to connect with my father, knowing how important culture and language were to him. A few years into our marriage, he became more conversational; his effort to re-acculturate improved his relationships with his own family as he was able to understand them, linguistically as well as culturally. 

While we live in the United States (and probably always will) and consider ourselves proud Americans, we feel that it is also important that we understand our Hispanic cultural identity, where our families come from, and are able to communicate with them and hopefully one day instill this in our children.

Did you read the first blog in this three-part series? If you missed it, click here to read how a mother’s need to teach her children Spanish encouraged her teenage son to learn more about his heritage.
 

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