Written by Jonathon Gonzalez and Maria Partida
To be a Chicano/a is something quite extraordinary. The definition of a Chicano is a person of a Mexican origin, but that means so much more to us. We take being a Chicano to a whole new meaning, we practice and celebrate traditions. We are proud of who we are. We are our best when we fully embrace it, as embracing our Chicano heritage helps us find who we are as a person. Being born in the United States is truly a blessing and there is no compassion when it comes to it.
Coming from a Mexican background living in the United States can be a bit difficult because living in America can force us to adapt to American traditions in order to blend into the American society. There isn't anything wrong with learning new traditions; the only thing is that when you embrace all these new traditions over time you can slowly forget about your Mexican traditions. This is why it is important to connect to your Mexican roots.
We interviewed a teacher on campus, Ms. Brenda Rodriguez, who defines herself as a Chicana and she shared her thoughts with us. the first question we asked Ms. Rodriguez was to what extent does she define herself as a Chicana and her response was “That's one of my identifiers whenever people ask me how do I identify myself. Latina and Chicana always comes up as one of the first ones.” Getting Ms. Rodriguez to share her thoughts on how she identifies was very important and it shows that she is connected with her Mexican roots. She further elaborates on what it means to her personally to be a Chicana- “For me being a Chicana means to embrace both sides of your culture. I know when I was in high school I was like no I’m an American and it wasn't until college that I embraced my Mexican culture. I think in general being a Chicana/o means to be proud of your identity and moving away from that internalized oppression and embracing who you are and the culture that you have.” Ms. Rodriguez adds “ I think one of the cool things about being a Chicana is being able to have access to two different cultures and being able to value Mexican culture, Mexican food, Mexican art, etc. and also being able to be incorporated into America and the beauty of that melting pot.” Ms. Rodriguez is a perfect example of the dichotomy of being a Chicana and embracing who you are. She mentioned that in her high school years she did not embrace both cultures and only identified as American but as she grew and experienced life as a adult, her mind grew and she learned that being a Chicana is a beautiful thing and she embraced it and now when someone asks her, her first response is a Chicana/Latina.
We wanted to have an age difference between the two people we interviewed so the second person we interviewed was a current high school student, Karmen Banuelos. We asked her the same questions and the purpose of it was to see how different the responses would be. We asked Karmen - being defined as a Chicana what are you most proud of and she easily answered that being involved in more than one culture, you get to experience more things and you get a more open perspective to different points of view. You get a better understanding of people and their culture and where they come from. You're not narrowed down to be one type of person. We shared this picture with Karmen and asked her what it meant to her.
Karmen responded with “ people working together to build something beautiful amongst all the ugly.” Karmen’s advice to other students is just being proud of who you are and proud of your background. That's what makes you, you and that's what defines you as a person.
The purpose of interviewing a teacher and a student was to see if there would be a different vibe from the responses and interestingly enough, there was not. This is in our opinion actually a good thing because the responses were fairly similar and it shows that both student and teacher have the same mindset. Karmen’s response to the mural, describing people working together to build something beautiful amongst all the ugly is the perfect way to not only “read” the picture but to recount one of the true meanings of being a Chicana. There has been a lot of ugly with relationships between Americans and Chicanos but that didn't stop us; we worked together and we fought through the ugly only to create something beautiful and that is equality.