Before we blog another word, let’s pause and send our prayers, well wishes and support to the earthquake victims in Haiti. The endless stream of haunting images coming out of Haiti reminds us of our good fortune here in the United States. I hope we’re all compelled to move swiftly and compassionately to the extent each and every one of our means allows. To donate to Haiti via UNICEF, please click here.
As for the pilot entry of Born Bicultural USA entitled, “I’m Not Black, I’m Hispanic” I thank all of those who visited, read, critiqued and commented on this initial effort. Your participation affirms that this topic and platform are viable. I encourage your continued support. I wouldn’t be a marketer if I didn’t ask you to “tell-a-friend” to stop by and visit as well. Again, thank you.
Now on to the subject of this post…
Are Hispanic-Americans “Hispanic” or “American” First?
No sé. I mean, I’m not sure.
I suspect the answer to this questions varies based on an entire set of factors which usually are influenced by your: (1) length of time in the U.S. / generational association, (2) geographic location, and (3) family conditioning.
Length of Time in the U.S.
In my observation, there’s a relationship between length of time in the U.S. and one’s inclination to claim “Hispanic” over “American” and vice versa. Generally, the further removed a Hispanic-American is from their ancestor’s immigration experience, the more likely that Hispanic-American is to claim American ahead of Hispanic. The opposite also holds true, in my observation. There are exceptions, like my New Yorican brothers and sisters who represent Puerto Rico to the fullest, even after many generations in The States. Also, Miami-Cubans, more than most on average, maintain such a Cuban-dominant orientation that the “American” part is often overshadowed.
The denser the concentration of Hispanics in any given region, the more likely that Hispanic-American group is to claim their Hispanic identity ahead of their American identity. In my experience, Miami is the Mecca in the U.S. for Hispanic identity (I suspect I’ll get some blowback on that one for having an East Coast biased from my brothers and sisters on the “Left Coast” – For the Record, I love the West Side too). As I interact with my Hispanic-American friends and family in markets where the concentration of Hispanic-American is not as pronounced as in cities like Miami, I encounter a different experience – an experience that has much more of the mainstream American norms present.
Our first education is the one we receive at home. To the degree our families conditioned us to believe we’re either “Hispanic First” or “American First” we largely carry on those beliefs into our adult lives and pass on these attitudes to our children.
As a bicultural, I often find myself defending whichever culture or nationality is being attacked. If I hear non-Hispanic Americans targeting Hispanics negatively, my Hispanic sensibilities are set-off and I’m inclined to defend the Hispanic position. The converse holds true as well. As a former member of the United States Air Force and self-identified “patriot” I respond respectfully but definitively when non-Hispanic American ideals are attacked by my Hispanic brothers and sisters.
In Miami, I encounter a relatively high number of age peers who are immigrants or first generation Hispanics who unforgivingly and proudly align their attitudes, ideology and behaviors to that of their home country. Generally, that’s fine with me. However, from this group, on occasion, I encounter comments or attitudes that are soo one-sided in favor of their home country at the expense of the United States, that I’m offended. In retrospect, I wonder if my state of offense stems from a jealousy that these immigrants have such a strong “country pride” orientation and I see soo little “Proud to be American” types in Miami. It’s much more popular to proclaim “Proud to be (enter any other country of origin not named the USA)”. While I try to figure out if my fundamental issue is jealousy or something else, Born Bicultural USA would like to hear your take.
As for my formula for answering this question, here’s one way to look at it. I pledge allegiance first to the only country that has a constitutional claim to place me physically in harm’s way (via military draft). Based on this formula, the only country legally allowed to force a uniform on my person is the United States of America; therefore, I’m American first (but not only). This is not to imply I’m not uber-proud of my family’s Hispanic heritage because I am. Say something silly about Cuba’s music legend Celia Cruz in front of me and prepare to be confronted. Ultimately, I don’t believe this question is a zero-sum equation, but rather a matter of degrees and priorities. I am no less proud to be Hispanic when chanting USA nor any less proud to be American when I am dancing Cuban salsa. I guess that’s what makes us bicultural.
Like many of the topics tackled by Born Bicultural USA, they are thorny, complicated and subject to change as we learn from each other’s perspective. I look fwd to learning from yours.
Born Bicultural USA