Mexican-American. Born in the United States to Mexican born parents. Growing up speaking Spanish and attending a bilingual elementary school in East Harlem was definitely a great transition into the “American” culture that would one day be my my everyday life. During this time I was surrounded by many American and foreign born students from all different backgrounds. It was as if I was in this small “minority” bubble, but it wasn’t until middle school that I was completely exposed to my minority status. Attending a private middle school on the upper east side was when I fully realized that not everyone was like me. Not only did I not look like everyone else but there was an obvious cultural difference. Thankfully New York City is home to an amalgamation of distinct cultures, but I took some time until I finally became comfortable and confident in my unique identity.
My parents were a huge part in forming my cultural identity but they were also of vital importance in forming my religious identity. Despite Puritanism vastly differing from the contemporary Christian church, Anne Bradstreet’s “To My Dear Children” echoes an important point that my parents instilled in my siblings and I: being thankful for everything that God has done for us. We are blessed to be living in this nation where Americans, regardless of our appearances, customs, or beliefs, are granted rights and responsibilities that make the United States the free country that it is. Yes, there are many changes that need to be made to improve our country, however we need to understand that the United States has come such a long way since our independence 240 years ago. Slavery was abolished. Women were granted the right to vote. Same-sex marriage was legalized. There could potentially be the first female president. The United States has had an amazing historical trajectory and there is so much to come.
No, my great-grandfather did not go to war many years ago to defend this country, and yes, I am a first generation American, college student, but that does not make me less American than anyone else. For a long time, I, like many other first generation Americans, such as Kristi Soto, felt ashamed that I would never be “American” enough. I, like my parents and Bradstreet, thank God for everything I have been fortunate to have, especially my education. Learning became a tool where I was able to understand the concept that being different was not only okay; it was amazing. My Mexican-Americanness adds to the greatness of this nation. That is what makes the this country so special. We are better and stronger together. The United States was founded on the belief of going out to seek a new and better life, and it does not matter if your family came to this country generations ago or if you’re a first generation American. If you are American, you are an American, and no one can tell you otherwise. I may be a Mexican-American but my journey as an American is only just beginning.
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