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Is There Such A Thing As Unmexican-American?

Is there a pie chart somewhere I can glance at?

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Mexican blood runs deep through my veins, but I was born here on American soil. Some self-exploration led me to question how Mexican I was despite being so embedded in the American culture. Am I not Mexican enough? How Mexican is Mexican enough?

Religion played an important role in my youth. Every Sunday meant church, and every greeting with my abuelos came with no shortage of blessings. All hardship seemed to be the result of God making me a bit stronger.

In need of advice? Ask God. Did you want something to go well? Ask God. Did you want to give thanks for food? Give thanks to God. Confused? Talk to God. God seemed to have all the answers. In Mexican culture, religion was considered of the utmost importance. Every respectable Mexican household had some nod to Catholicism.

Unfortunately, my grasp of religion started to loosen over time.

I asked teachers and counselors for advice. I told myself positive things when I wanted something to go well. I thanked my mom and dad for the food I was about to eat. I allowed myself to contemplate when I felt confused. God's role started to lose importance after I sought more tangible relationships with people I saw. Did I lose some part of my me?

If anything has saved me from abolishment it's the food. Rich in Mexican culture, food brings people together and heightens moods like nothing else. Every time my lips touch the warm carne asada my Mexican blood thickens and reverberated across millennia.

Yet, at times I feel ostracized by my unwillingness to have hot sauce on anything. Family members know to pass the salsa around me after having heard me say "No gracias" too many times for them to count. Despite how much I devour chilaquiles, posole, and menudo, sometimes it feels like my tongue has been far too Americanized.

Politeness is something I adopted and have made a staple in my life. My parents instilled the importance of politeness after their parents did the same and so on back into the generations. Above all else, I consider politeness what makes me most Mexican.

Everyone I meet is treated with respect, until lost. Everyone is greeted with a smile, no matter what the circumstance. At a young age, I greeted everyone at every party and said adios to before we left. Maybe it was considered more universal and less Mexican, but as I see other Mexican families commit to politeness I can't help but take pride in what my old country does to keep peace.

Machismo has been a strong part of the Mexican male since the earliest of civilizations and has still continued today. Though times have started to shift, there still exists a stigma among the Mexican community regarding the pride in being a manly man.

There aren't many things that make me feel like the famed manly man I've met over and over again. I'm weak, unhandy, unconfident, anxious, and I cower at the thought of leadership - all aspects of a personality persistent with the strong Mexican men of the culture.

Despite my lack of machismo, I can be passionate, intelligent, loving, committed, and courageous - other characteristics of the Mexican male. Though machismo has cemented itself as the typical embodiment, other virtues have started to sneak in with this changing environment.

So even though I can't associate myself with some of the older values inherent in Mexican male of old, perhaps if I latch on to the current characteristics I can satisfy any male identity I feel the need to satisfy.

Lastly, my Español can be far better. The language is, of course, of utmost importance among those deeply rooted in the Mexican culture. So, naturally, anyone who claims to be of any hispanic descent but has difficulty with the language is met with a frown.

I can converse easily with my tias, tios, and abuelos, and occasionally my primos, yet when I speak it feels like I have rocks in my mouth. If I never perfect the language, does that make me any less Mexican?

As the world moves, connecting with your culture becomes less and less about the traditional characteristics and more and more about creating yourself. Maybe you'll take everything from your traditional culture...maybe you'll take nothing. When we find ourselves wondering if we are "Mexican enough" or "Chinese enough" or anything enough, we should always remember how easy it is to adapt the best parts of our culture and become our own special breed of whatever makes us smile.

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