It’s a long read, and Sarah Menkedick's article, The Making of a Mexican-American Dream, published in Pacific Standard, is well worth the time and effort. It covers so much in its exploration/explanation of the long and complicated relationship we Mexican-Americans have with our country, the United States of America. The only place many of us have known as home for generations, and a place where we are all too often seen as not REAL Americans.* A place that asks us to change our names, our culture, and give up our native language, in order to fit it and be accepted. And even then for many the acceptance is tentative or never comes. We remain unwelcome. Foreigners. Aliens.
With one exception: something we absolutely must NOT change -- the food . . . keep preparing those tacos, chiles rellenos, and burritos. This country's love affair with Mexican food knows few bounds. I'm hiking with a Berkeley friend (not Latina, Asian-American to be exact), ping on her phone, checks the message. Her 20-something daughter (in Asia for better part of a year) reporting via text that she's homesick, "I really want a carne asada burrito from Gordo's." We share a good laugh. American comfort food.
Move over hamburgers, mac 'n cheese, and pizza, it's possible that burritors have overtaken you. As I often say, can't have Mexican food, without the Mexicans.
But back to Menkedick's article. I greatly appreciate the review of assimilation theory and why the experience of Americanization is so different for Mexican-Americans than for the millions of Europeans who found their way to the United States. Like me, many Mexican-Americans are completely Americanized, "wow, your English is so good," and at the same time hold steadfastly to our culture and language, even when we haven't had close family living in Mexico for generations.
Menkedick's article notes, that "[a]ny conversation about Mexican immigrants in the U.S. must acknowledge that it’s absurd to talk about many of them as immigrants at all. The first sizable population of Mexicans was here when the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed, requiring Mexico to cede more than half of its territory to the U.S. At the time, Mexicans living in what is now Arizona, California, New Mexico, Texas, Colorado, Nevada, and Utah automatically became American citizens. The concept of an American culture defined by middle- and upper-class white people demands and perpetuates cultural amnesia."
Friends, these are the same issues I explore in my one woman show, Tell Me Your Name, now playing at the Fresno Rogue Festival last two show this Friday, March 10 at 8 pm and Saturday at 3:30 pm. Tell your friends in the Central Valley/Fresno area.
I highly recommend you make the time to read The Making of a Mexican-American Dream. Thanks for this very thoughtful piece, Sarah Menkedick.
*America, a misnomer referring to the United States. America, is a land mass of the western hemisphere consisting of the continents of North and South America joined by the Isthmus of Panama. Still . . . America(n) is a shortcut we all use, even as some of us feel discomfort with it. I welcome your ideas for alternative descriptor of United States Citizen. USAian???
"Despite the rhetoric and hate crimes, Mexican immigrants are poised to reframe American culture, if white people would only let them." Sarah Menkedick