The Myth of the Latin Woman: Culture and How It Shapes Us

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Matthew Rhys, who is well known for the television series “The Americans” once said, “I’ve suffered from an identity crisis my entire life. It’s why I went into acting.” This quote can relate to people in many different ways because, when you don’t know who you are you “fake it till you make it.” Theorist Erikson coined the term identity crisis and believed that it was one of the most important conflicts people face in development. To this day many of us have struggled to know our place in this world and it affects our view of it. Culture is one of the most important factors in shaping a person’s views of the world because it is the foundation of all opinions and morals.

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Culture is an individual’s heritage molded by the atmosphere around them. This atmosphere affects the way they see the world, such as their opinions. An example of this would be Tanya Barrientos.In her article “Se Habla Espanol” she addresses the issue of how one can struggle to fit into their own ethnic group due to changes of society. Tanya moved to the United States when she was 3 years old with her family in 1963, during this time America was embracing the ideology of a ‘melting pot’ which expected immigrants to leave behind all of their heritage and culture. Tanya was committed to an identity which was being American. This is referred to as a foreclosure status which is when a person has made a commitment without exploring others. Tanya grew up in a white neighborhood where people would tell her she didn’t act or seemed Mexican and she would take that as a compliment. In her article she even stated “I enjoyed looking into the faces of Latino store clerks and waitresses, and yes, even our maid and saying ,Yo no hablo espanol(I don’t speak Spanish). It made me feel superior. It made me feel American.It made me feel white”. Growing in a white neighborhood is what shaped her opinions because as she said she felt as she was white. After a few years, America became more appreciative of different ethnic groups combining all cultures like a ‘salad’ to form one nation. Later in life she wanted to fit in with the Hispanics, and she would call Spanish language agencies to sign up to learn the language, but when they would pick up the phone and ask for her last name there was always an awkward pause. Because her last name is from a Hispanic background, her own kind would judge her for not knowing Spanish. Although most of her life she identified as white, she now identifies as a Latina and wants to inspire many others like her that are too scared to say. It is the culture of one’s identity that contributes to their opinion of the world, and not the singular experiences themselves.

In the article “The Myth of a Latin Women”, the author Maria Ortiz Cofer explains how her culture followed her everywhere she went. When she went to London she said how you can “leave the island, master the English language, and travel as far as you can” but if you’re a Latina like her the Island travels with you. Maria was raised in a Puerto Rican household and as a girl she was under strict surveillance where she was instructed to dress like a proper lady, but at the same time her mother would tell her to wear dresses that were considered too mature for her age. When she would go to her friend’s parties she felt embarrassed because she would show up in a formal dress to a casual birthday party. In Puerto Rico a dress like that wouldn’t be extra because over there she would be attending a fiesta (party) where here in the U.S to her it was just a marathon conversation. For career day at her school one of her friends told her that Puerto Rican girls were known for “wearing everything at once” referring to too much jewelry, too much color, and just too much of everything. Maria knew that even the nuns thought negatively of their outfit. The way her classmates and teachers would look at her made her get a taste of what the real world would be like for her. A world full of culture clash always making her feel ashamed for who she is. One event she remembers the most is when a lady mistaken her as a waitress instead of a poet and thought her writings were a menu instead of her poems. Maria didn’t think of it as an act of cruelty as she could see why the lady would think she was a waitress, as Hispanics are stereotyped to not have higher ranking jobs in the U.S.A. She stated in her article that she felt lucky that her parents made it possible for her to have education, books and art because she believes that the world for her would be much harsher to her with prejudice of ethnic and race if she hadn’t had these opportunities. It is experiences like this that shapes one’s views of the world.

Another article that shows how culture can shape your morals, opinions, and values is,”What my Bike Has Taught Me About White Privilege”. The author Jeremy Dowsett explains how driving his bike around open a whole new world for him. Most people are familiar with the phrase white privilege, and many white folks who didn’t grow up with this don’t believe in it because they were the misfortunate ones. Dowsett is a white man who has children that are not white and most of his loved ones aren’t either, so he cares about what it means to have privilege. With making his bike as his main way of transportation he’s seen how people are aggressive towards him, so he thinks how much worse it would be for a person of color. The cars represent the white people as they have the right away and the bikers have to move out of the way, meaning the people of color. When you’re in a car you’re safe and don’t have to worry about getting cold or people not making space for you because you are the most “important”.Dowsett’s morals were shaped by the beautiful experience of riding a bike.

In addition, Camila Cabello is a great example to how culture has shaped her identity. During the 2016 election Camila said that she had never realized the extent to which racism persists in her adopted country. “All of the things that were being spoken about hit so close to home, to me being an immigrant and being a Latina. I feel like in a way that’s just kind of made me prouder of my roots. Now and forevermore, I’m going to stick up for immigrants and I’m going to stick up for Hispanic people and their rights. I feel like that’s just my job.” Camila comes from a Hispanic household where she was educated and raised the Hisapnic way so she feels that is a must to help her own people. Unlike Maria and Tanya, Camila has known her whole life who she is. If they were to meet they would all share in common the fact that they are Latina girls that know what it’s like to be looked down on and that it’s hard to maintain your ground when society seems to be against you.

In conclusion, the world is a place of abundant life experiences such as riding a bike, paths trying to find who you are, and being proud of where you come from. Culture is indeed the most important influence on an individual’s perception of life. I myself have had many eye opening experiences throughout my life that have molded my culture into what it is now. As people undergo more and more impactful life events, their culture follows and becomes an accumulation of all of them, and that’s where their perception of life comes from.     

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