The multi-generational Latinx experience is complicated
We have repeatedly heard that the Latinx community is not a monolithic group, meaning that we are not all the same. This is true. And although our diversity is beautiful, it can be a lot of work to learn about every Latin country’s immigration story. However, it is worth taking the time to learn because these stories inform our understanding of each other. And my belief is that the better we understand each other, the better we can work together.
When talking about multi-generational Latinx in America, it is important to know the following: Some multi-generational Latinx in America have immigration stories and others don’t have immigration stories (can’t forget about the Latinx that were already in the southwestern United States since the 16th century). Some speak Spanish. Some do not. Some have pursued higher education and some are first-generation college going while others have limited education. Some are wealthy and some have experienced generational poverty. Some listen and watch Spanish media, others do not. I also have to admit that although not all of us understand the Bad Bunny phenomenon because we don’t have the language to understand his lyrics, we get that he is a big deal. On the other hand, Selena Quintanilla’s experience of having to be “enough” for two cultures resonates with many of us. And there are many of us.
When the 1850 US census was taken soon after Mexico and the US signed the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, more than 80,000 Mexicans, 2,000 Cubans and Puerto Ricans, and 20, 000 people from Central and South America were counted. From these originals, came descendants, plus there have been multiple waves of immigration since. And there will be even more multi-generational Latinx as first-generation Latinx continue to have progeny.
What do multi-generational Latinx have in common?
No matter your country of origin, multi-generational Latinx have a shared experience of acculturation. Depending on how long your family has been in the United States, they have either experienced the societal pressure to acculturate or the forced measures placed upon them to acculturate. For example, I am 4th and 5th generation Native American and Mexican-American depending on which side of the family you are analyzing. Because some of my great grandparents and older generations were fully Native American, they were forced to relocate, learn Spanish, adopt a Catholic name, and attend school; whereas, my grandparents were born in New Mexico and Colorado and moved to Los Angeles County in their teens. My grandparents attended schools that would whip them for speaking Spanish – the irony.
Given that there have been policy changes throughout history, different families have been held to different expectations when it comes to acculturation and therefore there are differences in assimilation.
Multi-generational Latinx can feel like imposters in their own community
I facilitate an “Own Your Presence: Overcoming Imposter Syndrome” workshop, and I have had many multi-generational attendees share that they often feel like an imposter within the Latinx community. They mentioned receiving criticism for not being as “in the know” about Latinx culture as their peers, and if they didn’t speak Spanish, they automatically felt like outsiders.
The first-generation and multi-generational experience is not the same. So, suspending judgment and taking an empathetic approach toward each other will allow first-generation and multi-generational Latinx the opportunity to better understand each other.
First-gens, if you see a multi-generational Latinx working on learning a language or is starting to embrace their roots, support them. It is a vulnerable process to relearn culture when it has been stripped from you. And, it is equally challenging to unlearn and challenge ideas that stem from colonization.
On the other hand, multi-generational Latinx, be mindful that when you enter spaces that you seek to learn from, enter them humbly. Acknowledge what you are working on and be willing to put in the work to learn your culture and give back to those who teach you.