From my full name, Lesly Alejandra Marroquin, I know that a lot of my personal identities can be implied. Such as that I am female and probably Hispanic or Latino. Even if names are thought to be so revealing at the same time they leave a lot hidden. A person’s name and appearance do not delve into their personal identities. I currently identify myself as a second generation Guatemalan-American female. From my identity, I choose to leave out that I am white and economically low class. I feel more pride and comfort with my ethnic, cultural, and gender identities than my racial and economic ones.
While they all have impacted my life, I have had many experiences where my identities have clashed. This has caused me to choose which ones I feel are truly significant. Tam a second generation American from an undocumented single parent. This makes me the first of my intermediate family to have been born in the United States. The rest of my family is from Guatemala, as is my biological father. My mother arrived alone and undocumented into the United States in 1995. I was taught at a very young age what it meant to be undocumented and of my cultural background.
Thave grown up with beliefs that are against deportation and separation of families. This makes me currently empathize with immigrants and refugees. My mother only spoke Spanish, making it my first language and only method of communicating with her. Even though my mother was monolingual, our house was bilingual. My mother cooked both Guatemalan dishes and American recipes she learned from the cooking channel. While we contrasted each other culturally we still shared so much. I personally feel that our first and second generation identities have become a separate culture.
We have both adapted to each other, ending up with our household being a fusion of Guatemala and the United States. With my mother being a single parent, we went through a significant amount of economic problems. I never really identified with our social economic class until I reached high school. Having applied to one of my city’s most selective schools, I was completely unaware of the enrollment process. A student’s acceptance was based on test scores and the economic state of the student’s neighborhood. When I was accepted, I was completely ecstatic and thought that I was fully deserving of it.
Once I started school, I had to hear many of my peers complain about how the school made it easy for poor students, mainly minorities, to be accepted. After I finished high school, I realized that many of these complaints also targeted towards universities, financial aid, and academic scholarships. I then chose to separate my racial and ethnic identities from my socioeconomic class. It took a very long time for me to accept that my accomplishments were completed through my own hard work and not just because I filled a quota.
I also decided that this is a temporary identity and not reflective of my most important aspects. In my family, I have a significant amount of relatives with the name Alejandra or Alejandro. This is because my family believes in the custom that you should name your children after your parents and elders. My mother’s name influenced my brother to name my nephew Antonio. This is only one example of how my Guatemalan family is traditional. The importance of tradition could be explained by many of family members being much older.
My family is very Christian and while I was not brought up with a religious affiliation, I do feel comfortable with it. My family prays before meals and attends church on weekends. Everyone in our family is expected to be baptized. Moreover, there is a deep value for knowing the Spanish language. Some of my American born relatives are judged for only speaking English because it limits them from fully communicating. With my Guatemalan family, I have learned to value certain aspects of faith and tradition.
I also find that I incorporate these things into my normal life, such as praying when I am scared or upset. In all honesty, I value being bilingual myself because I can successfully talk to my relatives. The culture in my Guatemalan family is special to me because I know that it has played an important role in shaping my morals and values. Since my family is more traditional, the different foods of Guatemala are also very important. I was brought up with eating beans and rice for all three meals. For dessert, I was satisfied with just having fried plantains.
On Monday, my mother would make bean stew that somehow ended up being refried beans by the end of the week. I was exposed to coffee and sweet bread from a very young age. For special occasions and holidays, my family would make potfuls of tamales. There are many variations of them in Guatemala; small ones (chuchitos), potato tamales (paches), and even sweet ones (negros). All of these are food staples in Guatemala and in my everyday life. These are only some foods, but they are special because they are the local foods of the country.
They usually are always in season and are relatively easy to prepare. They are also representing the combination of cultures in Guatemala, mainly Spanish and Mayan. Guatemalan food has always been important to me because it has always been very different from other foods I have experienced in the United States. I appreciate how unique and essential the cuisine is. Thave always been thankful that I closely resemble my mother. We have similar face shapes, noses, mouths, and other features. People always tell me I am almost an exact copy of her.
The only significant differences being our skin tones and eye sizes. My mother has a dark brown complexion and smaller eyes, while I am very pale with medium sized eyes. A common compliment I have been told by family and friends is that I am prettier because I am whiter. This has always made me uncomfortable, even more, when I have been asked if I am mixed. It always makes me feel like I am being separated from my family and heritage. Many of my friends were shocked when they found out that my biological father’s complexion is also dark.
Growing up whenever I had to fill out governmental surveys, I had always left the race portion blank. My family is unsure of our specific roots, whether of being from Spanish or Native descent, and so I have never identified myself racially. We are a mixture of skin tones and colors, most of my family having a dark brown complexion. When I was older, I was told by a counselor that should fill out white for my race in my college applications, because I was light skinned. I never felt really comfortable with racially identifying myself, so this is why today I choose not to.
Yet, living in America has shown me the advantages I have over my relatives with darker complexions. I recognize the privileges | have and at the same time, try to always support people with darker complexions. Identifying as female is very important to me, mainly because of my personal experience of having a single mother. As well as witnessing the standards Hispanic and Latina women have to fulfill. My mother has always been my role model. I witnessed her go through incredibly difficult times with the purpose of trying to support my brother and me.
She somehow achieved to raise us successfully while balancing a full-time job, house chores, and financial responsibilities. I know for a fact that she struggled with being separated from our family and my brother, who lived in Guatemala, but stayed emotionally strong nevertheless. When I first traveled to Guatemala, I was not surprised to see my other female relatives were just as strong. I know that the typical Hispanic head of the house is usually the oldest male, but I personally believed it to be the oldest female.
Tobserved my female family members doing the most to keep the household successfully intact. They handled taking care of their children, cooking three meals, cleaning the house, buying groceries, and sometimes even working outside of the home. Being raised in America, my mother never pressured me with having to follow the traditional housewife role, but nevertheless, I fully respect it. I think that this is because I relate being female to positive traits. Such as being strong, hardworking, determined, and loving.
I do identify with my gender from birth, but my experiences make me value it even more. I have many different identities, but the ones I feel most comfortable with are because of my personal experiences. Different episodes in my life have highlighted certain aspects of my identity over others and have overall shaped me as an individual. I am a second generation Guatemalan American female and I am completely most comfortable with these parts of myself. These identities reflect my the things that have shaped me as a person; my upbringing, background, family, values, insecurities, and culture.