Being third generation Mexican-American on my father’s side, I had lost a lot of my heritage and didn’t understand what it meant to be a “Mexican-American”. I grew up in a very “Americanized” home where a lot of traditional Hispanic cultural items were missing; from music to art work. The few claims to the culture that I had was my last name (due to my light skin) with the occasional meal and extended family get together.
When Donald J. Trump made his announcement that he was running for the Republican Presidential candidacy on June 16th, 2015, he included this phrase in his speech:
“Mexico is not sending their best, they are sending people that have a lot of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They are bringing drugs. They are bringing crime. They’re bringing rapists…”
This was not the Hispanics that I knew. I knew my family and a few others that were educated and hard-working, but I didn’t know much more after that. The above quote made me question who I was, what my heritage was, who my family was and what did it mean to be “Mexican-American”.
In a way, Mr. Trump forced me to try and better understand who I am, where my family has been, and what it means to be Mexican-American because I disagreed with what he said. I didn’t believe that all of the immigrants were bad and that he was marginalizing an entire ethnic group.
So I started to research what it meant to be Mexican-American. I asked questions of friends and family members of what it meant to them and about their family history. The answers I got were fascinating. Stories of family, parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles coming over from Mexico to the United States and of the struggles of being poor in a new country. I heard stories about people growing up learning English as a second language; of family members having to steal food from their brothers or sisters just to have a meal to eat; not being able to go to school dances; about the racism that touched these people on an every-day basis.
In this collection, I have compiled images from the today’s Mexican-American culture, ranging from individuals to places of business, from the youngest generations to the oldest, places of faith to tradition, from first generations to third and fourth. These images show that to be a Mexican-American in the United States today trying to live the “American Dream” while still holding on to the traditions that have been passed down throughout the generations; the thought of person or self (who are you, how do you present yourself to the outside world); traditions of unity, community, and family; religion or belief; a sense of home, for not only you but immediate family and even extended family if necessary; and hard work, being able to provide for yourself and bettering the future generations while not forgetting about those who came before you. All of this is while holding onto traditional values from the “old country”, and trying to overcome an “us verses you” mentality of “a Hispanic in a White America”.