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Many Americans feel strongly about the traditions and values found in their specific cultural heritage (e.g., African Americans, Korean Americans, and Mexican Americans). They may experience a conflict between how much they want to separate themselves from the mainstream of U.S. society to maintain their cultural identity and how much they want to assimilate themselves into U.S. society. Read the three accounts below of young Mexican Americans who represent three views on this conflict. As you read, identify who among these three teenagers wants to separate, who wants to assimilate, and who wants to find a middle road.

    1. PAUL: "I don’t want to be known as a Mexican American, but only as an American. I was born in this country and raised among Americans. I think like an Anglo, I talk like one, and I dress like one. It’s true that I don’t look like an Anglo and sometimes I am rejected by them, but it would be worse if I spoke Spanish or said that I was of Mexican descent…I wish those people who are always making noise about being Mexican Americans would be quiet. We would be better off if they would accept things as they are…"
    2. ROBERTO: "I am proud of being a Mexican American. We have a rich heritage. Mexico is a great country that is progressing fast. It has a wonderful history and culture… I don't want to be like the 'Paddys' [Anglos] …They don't like anyone who is different…Most people, even some Mexican Americans, look down on us because we are Mexicans…It is unhealthy and unnatural to want to be something you are not."
    3. ROSA: "I am happy to be an American of Mexican descent. Because I am Mexican, I learned to be close to my family, and they have been a source of strength and support for me…My Spanish also helped me a lot in my education and will open a lot of doors for me when I look for a job. As an American I am happy to live in a great progressive country where we have the freedom to achieve anything we want…I feel very rich and fortunate because I have two cultures rather than just one."

Complete the following sentences:

PAUL/ROBERTO/ROSA (circle one) wants to assimilate in American society.

PAUL/ROBERTO/ROSA (circle one) want to separate from American society.

PAUL/ROBERTO/ROSA (circle one) wants neither to assimilate nor separate from American society but rather to take a middle road

Source: Hallie Ann Wannamaker, Multicultural Activities for the American History Classroom, West Nyack, NY: The Center for Applied Research in Education, 1996, p.9.

Read Eric Kao's statement about being Chinese American and Raimonda Mikatavage's article on "Fitting In.".

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