Mexican Americans comprise the fastest growing ethnic group in the United States. As an increasingly important racial group in politics, culture, education and socialization, important issues of acculturization and racial or ethnic prejudice surround the present and future of Mexican Americans. Several predominant characteristics of Mexican Americans have been identified by researchers; among these are issues of language, religion, familial culture, and political identification.
The strong hierarchy of the Mexican American family, for example, stands in contrast to many urbanized Caucasians who remain unmarried or cohabitate rather than becoming legally married. “Many Mexican American families include extended relatives who often live in the same household (Sue & Sue, 1990). Cooperation, loyalty, and respect are emphasized within the family unit. A hierarchy of authority is set giving decision making privileges to elderly family members, parents, and males. ” (Medina et al. , 1988, p. 41). (Trevino, 1991)
In addition to a hierarchical family structure, Mexican Americans typically retain a strong sense of their native culture through the speaking of Spanish “The Spanish language is a strong communication link among Mexican Americans. Sue and Sue (1990) report Spanish to be spoken in over half of the homes of Hispanics. Spanish remains the language of emotion (Leal, 1990) and provides “Chicanos an essential link to their heritage – to the value they place on family, and the value they place on cooperative relationships” (Medina et al.
, 1988, p. 41). (Trevino, 1991) Personal interaction and group interaction are essential components of the Mexican American lifestyle,and these factors impact Mexican American religious and political practices and beliefs. ” Within Mexican American culture, interaction with a large network of family and friends is encouraged; furthermore friends are highly esteemed and mutual support is cherished (Kunce & Vales, 1984).
Interactions are extended to include maintenance of religious beliefs, and great importance is placed on practicing religious traditions (Sue & Sue (1990), including sacrifice, charity, and the enduring of wrongs” (Yamamoto & Acosta, 1982). Mexican Americans are typically of less economically privileged status than Caucasians. Not Mexican Americans, but Puerto Rican Americans, are the most deeply impoverished Hispanic racial group in the United States.
“Puerto Ricans, in turn, constitute the second largest and most economically disadvantaged Hispanic group in the United States ” (Cortes, Rogler & Malgady, 1994) The acculturization of Puerto Rican Americans, like that of Mexican Americans, has proven difficult and extensive studies by researchers has been conducted to determine the cultural, religious, political, and linguistic traditions of Puerto Rican Americans. The results of this study indicated that many Puerto Rican Americans accepted acculturization and saw themselves as primarily American and not primarily as Puerto Rican.
These beliefs included questions concerning the eating of Puerto Rican food, the association with other Hispanics and Puerto Ricans, retention of Puerto Rican religious identities and language. (Cortes, Rogler & Malgady, 1994) By studying the table provided *, a clear indication of the movement away from Puerto Rican identity among Puerto Rican Americans is shown. In other words, “what it means to be Puerto Rican, how this meaning changes as a result of exposure to American culture, and the characteristics of American culture.
” (Cortes, Rogler & Malgady, 1994) As the study clearly indicated, Puerto rican Americans are more willing to relinquish their cultural identity than Mexican Americans and yet Mexican Americans seem to be establishing themselves ina better economic position and retention of their native culture than Puerto rican Americans. As one “Puerto Rican resident of the South Bronx who served as a cultural consultant in one of our study’s focus groups: When I came to this country, I came with the idea of accepting another culture and not with the idea of making mine disappear.
I said to myself: “I am going to the United States and I am going to accept the North American culture. ” (Cortes, Rogler & Malgady, 1994) Cuban Americans, unlike their Puerto Rican counterparts, view themselves as living in exile from the homeland. Most of the exiled Cubans arrived in the U. S. after Fidel Castro’s rise to power, and their collective political will and cultural associations cast this racial group in America as political exiles. “They were clearly “pushed” out of their homeland.
Once so designated, most have overtly or intimately remained Cuban political exiles, although no longer exclusively. ” (Gonzalez-Pando, 1998, p. 85) Mass waves of Cubans came to the U. S. “Some 14,000 Cuban children were sent away by their parents in the 1960s on a church-sponsored airlift called Operation Pedro Pan. Others were torn away from loved ones by Cuban officials, never to hear from them again; or by the raging sea, as Elian’s mother was. Elian has been a reminder of how divided Cuban families are.
It is too painful to talk about, and too important not to. ” (Wilde, 2000, p. 556) Cuban Americans despite their status as exiles represent an eclectic group with very few generalities: “Cuban emigre’s certainly do not lend themselves to unequivocal, abiding labels. They may appear to be old-fashioned Cubans, fanatical political exiles, struggling ethnic minorities, successful Cuban Americans, or proud Americans–and all these facades can be displayed by the same individual, alternatively or even simultaneously.
” (Gonzalez-Pando, 1998, p. 84) Like Mexican Americans, Cuban Americans depend on a close family structure and social interactions “The extended-family structure prevalent among the early exiles provided a constant reinforcement of the Cuban mind-set. In addition to its obvious economic advantages, the three-generation family acquired cultural viability as a repository of popular tales, folklore, rituals, and myths, lending coherence to the collective actions of el exilio. (Gonzalez-Pando, 1998, p.
87) The learning of English is viewed by many Cubans as a concession to their exile; others, particularly the young, find learning English easy. “The young quickly learned English, of course. Among the elderly, however, learning a new language was far from a priority. To them, in fact, English represented more than just a practical obstacle; it subconsciously challenged the affective and symbolic underpinnings of a past they so obsessively revered. (Gonzalez-Pando, 1998, p. 87) Another group of Hispanic Americans includes those from Central or South America.
This highly diverse group is difficult to quantify or generalize about; however a recent study into the leisure activities of Central and South American immigrants revealed very interesting data regarding economic, political, religious and social identities among these immigrants. This group contained the least acculturized Hispanics “”Most of the Central American population were born in Central America, had less time in this country, and therefore had lower acculturation levels. ” (Juniu, 2000, p.
358) The immigrants in this category regarded the learning of English as a high priority “Almost all the informants stressed that knowing English is an essential factor if one wanted to take advantage of all the opportunities the United States had to offer; English skills were necessary for social and economic mobility. They associated knowing English with getting better jobs. ” (Juniu, 2000, p. 358) They also regarded association with groups and with family members, the language barrier being one cited cause for this :”They regretted not having the language skills to do this: …
I try to spend time with Latin American people because I feel more comfortable with them. But at the same time I know it does not help me improve my English (Veronica, 42 years old, single woman, office manager, Peru). ” (Juniu, 2000, p. 358) The broad category of “Central” and “South” Americans includes a number of religious identities and beliefs as well as political beliefs which are very difficult to generalize about, but which follow a similar pattern to the pattern of language acculturization nd leisure activities presented in the Juniu study.