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My Journey From Mexican to American to Mexican-American


Like many of you, I’ll be celebrating halloween in just a few days. But recently, I also began celebrating Dia de los muertos. I’m reclaiming a part of me that was neglected for decades. Here’s the story of how I became less Mexican and how I’m bringing it back into my life.

“If you want to succeed, forget about where you came from and learn to be like us.”

It was never said to me in those exact words, but I felt it. And it’s not only a terrible way to think, it’s a horrible thing to impose on children. There are generations of immigrant children burdened with the idea that there is less value in their heritage than there is in adopting the American way of living. Many are lead to believe that they must leave behind where they came from and learn to be like those of where they live now.

Most of my life I was pulled in two directions. On one side, I was told by some of my Mexican family that I acted too white. And with others, I was excluded for not being white enough. At least now I can see that this type of thinking is a massive disservice to everyone.

I spoke only Spanish until I was 7 years old. In school, I was placed in a class where much of the time was spent teaching us how to speak English. While others were learning a prescribed curriculum, I was spending my time at school learning a new language. Eventually, I earned the amazing privilege of being placed in an English-speaking classroom with the other kids. I was lucky because unlike many other students, I achieved this level of success by second grade. Many others took much longer, setting them far behind their english-speaking classmates.

Once I started speaking English at school, my Spanish quickly faded away. My family moved to Upstate New York for work in 1991 and my language and my culture were left far behind.

It was an enormous shame. And I didn’t realize how much I had lost until later in my adult life. Now, I almost feel guilty for allowing myself to forget my language and the traditions of where I came from.

I can’t turn back the clock but thankfully it’s never too late to start learning and relearning. I’m trying to speak some Spanish again. I’m asking my parents questions about our culture and family traditions. I’ve even started observing some of them. For the last few years I’ve set up my Ofrenda for Dia De Los Muertos with pictures of my grandparents that are no longer with us. And during this time I try to make it a point to ask my parents to tell me stories about when they were alive so I can properly remember them.

Recently, I’ve noticed that a lot of us have gained an interest in our ancestry. Just look at the skyrocketing sales of genetic testing kits. Sure, it’s a start. Rebuilding that family tree is nice but there’s so much culture attached to that tree that is still lost.

I might be pointing out the obvious here but wouldn’t it have been easier to pass down all this culture and information along the way? Instead, we went generations allowing our immigrant friends to feel like they must abandon their heritage in order to succeed here.

I’m not going to be ignorant to the fact that if you move somewhere you need to learn the language and the culture. In my opinion, it is a sign of respect. If I moved to Paris tomorrow, of course I’d learn French and the Parisian way of life (don’t twist my arm). But we should never demand that people forget where they came from to make room for something new.

The most American thing we can do is remind ourselves that this country was founded by immigrants and it’s what makes us beautiful and strong. Accepting and praising our differences is something we should be doing more.

Maybe we can try taking more of an interest in new food, new cultures, and people from far away places. Ask questions and learn something new. This makes someone feel accepted and appreciated and less likely to let their traditions fade away in hopes of fitting in with the other “Americans”.

If we do this right, being different may actually be the norm one day - What a beautiful day that will be.

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Unknown member
Sep 21, 2022

My 1year old has been watching you every morning when we get ready for our day she likes to point with you.😂 You seem like a great person and we will hope to see you back soon keep your head up.


Unknown member
Sep 08, 2022

Erick: I miss not being able to see you in the mornings, because I am not a morning person.....but, I just wanted you to know, that we, at home, miss you so very much......


Unknown member
Dec 03, 2021

It's been awhile since I've come back to this blog, and I can't believe I missed this post for so long. Such an amazing and relatable read. I think we all have a natural impulse to assimilate and be somewhat popular among peers. Occasionally, you have to step back and ask "Am I diminishing myself?". I'm gonna co-sign what an earlier commenter said and tell you that you are indeed a beautiful person, inside and out. You have so much positivity and light to offer the world. Keep being who you are and sharing your stories. There are so many who can learn, and others who can gain a sense of confirmation/reassurance, from what you have to share. Happy Holidays…


Unknown member
Oct 26, 2020

Hi Erick!

What an amazing story. Thank you for sharing your experience. I've had a similar upbringing and until I read your story I would never have imagined 🤔 that this may have been a common practice amongst other Latin cultures.

I am second generation Puerto Rican and I grew up in Forest Hills, Queens. Although Puerto Rico is a commonwealth and shares many American commonalities I was constantly reminded that I was "American", and solely "American". We were forbidden from using anything with the Puerto Rican flag 🇵🇷 on it or having anything that represented our country. I recall being instructed by my grandmother that if anyone ever asked where I was from I was to say "American, and…


Unknown member
Oct 26, 2020

oh, i forgot to tell you, i had to put my precious scottish terrier to sleep. it is something that you never get over. he was sooooo beautiful (i groomed him) and quite a character, so funny. i slept with him every night and i miss our schnuggles. his name was jonas.

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