Why is ancestral country and culture so important to some Americans and not others? And why do some ethnicities identify with the home country and culture of their parents or grandparents or great-grandparents more than others? It seems to me that “roots identity” is much more important to Irish, Italians, Mexicans, and Indians (and arguably Jews) than other second and third generation and fourth generation immigrants.
Two things have me wondering this. First: Arnold Schwarzenegger’s comment that Mexicans don’t immerse themselves and “assimilate into the American culture become part of the American fabric.” (More from Cindylu and KJERRINGA MOT STRØMMEN) And also this post about “Indianness” from Aishwarya, based in New Delhi. Describing a cousin of hers who lives in the US, she writes:
She’s more up to date on Indian fashion than I am. She watches every Bollywood release, and reminds me of those women in Bollywood NRI movies where the scenery and the white people are relegated to the status of props.
Then, describing herself:
Philistine that I am, I don’t wear my Indian-ness as a sort of badge of honour. I live in India and have an Indian passport, so being Indian is obviously not as big a deal for me as for someone who lives halfway across the world. Most of my friends are Indian, simply because I’m in India and Indians are most of the people I meet. But despite living in Delhi, I have plenty of non-Indian friends as well. Because my interests and concerns are not specifically Indian ones. My taste in music isn’t, the books and movies I like aren’t Indian (some of them are. Not all).
Her post reminded me of a thought I had once while riding in the car with some friends in Mexico City. We were listening to the very latest indie rock songs from Brooklyn, wearing identical clothing, and on our way to eat, not tacos, but hamburgers. “Las hamberguesas mas ricas de todo DF,” they told me. And I remember thinking to myself, “Mexicans are more American than most Chicanos.”
I should clarify that this has nothing to do with assimilation because I don’t believe there is a static American culture that immigrants should assimilate to. American culture has always been dynamic and has always evolved thanks to the contributions of new immigrants.
Four of my favorite bloggers all happen to be Mexican-American. For Cindylu and Jennifer, their “Mexicanness” is something that is very important to them and a huge part of their identity. But from the blogs of Alejandro and Xoloitzquintle, you’d never even know that they are Mexican-American.
Why? Why the difference in identity and interests? Jennifer has already written about when Mexicanness became a central part of her identity. But why does that transformation happen to some and not others?
She opened up a book of poems and handed it to me written by an Italian poet from the 13th century and every one of them words rang true and glowed like burning coal pouring off of every page like it was written in my soul.
I’m one of those people who like to make fun of slam poetry. I have my own little impersonation where I snap my fingers and talk about my mother’s vagina in that unmistakable rhythm of choked-up stuttering.
But when I hear people say that modern poetry – real poetry, constructed with language, not theatrics – is dead, I ask them to listen to my iPod. When will the most talented hip-hop artists – from Uganda to Cuba to Cincinnati – be recognized as the true poets of contemporary society?
When will studying rap lyrics in an academic environment be considered something more than pop-culture indulgence by professors wanting to look cool? Tupac, Slug, Zion I (thanks Revaz), Eminem: their descriptions of modern life and of timeless human nature are brutally and beautifully expressive. They are true poets and should be regarded as such.
Downloads of the day: