Mexican and American – Both can exist together nicely.
What generation do you fall under? First? Second? Or Third generation? When does a hyphen get removed and a hyphenated American become just American? I think that depends on individual preferences. Honestly, I don’t always use my hyphen card, and you know what’s crazy? In other countries, (other than Mexico) I am just American! Don’t get me wrong, I know I’m American, but through the years I’ve walked in mine fields of coined terms and technical vocabulary that I’ve used very non-technically, either applied to myself or to someone in my Mexican-American path.
First-generation American, which I applied to myself, because I assumed that since I was the first of my entire immediate family to be born in the United States I should be first, especially since I’m almost the last of my siblings, I held on to this. For years I’ve said “Yes, I’m a first-generation American,” with a fixed conviction that I was. Then I read the Wikipedia definition: (my sons teacher always warned him about where his source of information was coming from) “According to the U.S Census Bureau, first generation refers to those who are foreign born, second generation refers to those with at least one foreign-born parent, and third-and-higher generation includes those with two U.S. native parents.”
So, not only am I not first, my parents were not just Mexican, they were considered immigrants! By whom? That would be the previous generations of immigrants now called just Americans. Then, as I am processing this information, something else hit me. All my older siblings were considered immigrant children! Raised in the U.S, all of them American citizens, with kids of their own that do not even speak Spanish. It hit me hard, that I was raised in a mixed home; Mexican and American.
Why is this so relevant now?
Because as I sit and describe my Mexican American-ness I realize that some things were not necessarily spoken of, but lived. Just the facts: Mexican parents with six immigrant kids and later two American born kids. A home with mostly Spanish speaking until us younger kids got older and Spanish thinking switched to English and the languages mingled; also called Spanglish. Of course, always speaking only in Spanish when speaking to our mother. We didn’t go around telling our friends or teachers about our home life, but it showed in our upbringing.
It is my experience that many hyphenated American families either incorporate both cultures or stubbornly insist on just one, thankfully our parents allowed us to exercise our American after we had established our Mexican.