Americans vs. Hispanics

Gema is an 18-year old from Miami, FL. She loves reading and writing young adult fiction and claims to pass out in the presence of sterile wit.

This article has also been translated into Spanish for our new Spanish Radical Parenting Site:Padres Radicales Here is the link to our blog, if you know anyone who speaks Spanish and has kids, teens or tweens please send it on!

Personally, I believe that being a first generation American means that you fall victim to multiple personality disorder. It seems to me that Americans’ and Hispanics’ definitions of family, ways of disciplining their children and their approach to secondary education travel on parallel roads that go in opposite directions. But what does a person do when different maps lead them in both directions?

As a person with Hispanic parents and American television, I started to notice the main difference between Americans and Hispanics in the family unit. When Cory’s father (from Boy Meets World) says that he’s done what he has to do to provide for his family, he is talking about his wife and kids. When Amy Jergen’s (from the Secret Life of the American Teenager) is hunting down a home for her son, she searches for a married couple because that’s all that’s needed to create a family unit. In Hispanics, however, the definition of “family” isn’t quite so specific. Think of it like a company: mom and dad are your supervisors. They monitor your progress in the company that is “life” and discipline you as they see fit. At times, they may seem annoying and meddlesome but at the end of the day, you rather face these supervisors than to be embarrassed in front of your co-workers. These include: aunt, uncle and cousins, grandpa, grandma-anyone who’s alive, basically. This is the Hispanic Family. A big difference from American families.

Since we’re on the topic of family, another difference I’ve noticed is in the discipline. While I understand that there are the occasional monsters who feel that bruising their kids is a de-stressing recreational activity, it seems that there are certain kids who have learned the wrong lesson from “The Girl Who Cried Wolf”. These are the ones that screech child abuse when a hand is raised when it is clear that they’ve been more disrespectful than pink at a funeral. Instead, the standard punishment seems to be grounding, which includes being stripped of electronics and being sentenced into solitary confinement in their room. I can assure you that the majority of incoming Hispanic adults have never even heard of this. The style in most of Hispanic countries is a whip of the belt or the use of the sandals against the bum. The issue is when these two styles collide: the physical discipline in a place where it could be considered violent and perhaps even illegal. The result is parental frustration, and perhaps (in some sad cases) teens who take advantage of such loopholes.

The third difference (and one that I’m currently struggling with) is the approach to a secondary education. For the most part, it is traditional for the American teen to go away to college. We are encouraged to break out of our comfort zones and experience life in a different city, perhaps even a different state.

Hispanics, not so much.

Unless they live in an extremely rural area, a daily commute to a University is expected in Hispanic countries. This could mean an hour or two bus ride into the capital on a daily basis. In addition, females usually don’t leave the home unless they are married. In fact, if the situation does occur, mummers in the street call it living the “American Style.” So you can see how moving away to live in a dorm room with strangers might be a problem. Questions arise: “What does Harvard provide that the community college across town doesn’t? Why do you want to leave your family so badly; are you ashamed of us?” Morals, priorities and loyalties are questioned. It is here when the parallel roads that travel in opposite directions merge into one and two cultures drive eighteen wheelers toward the center where you happen to be standing.

It’s a beautiful thing to have the ability to juggle two cultures. Being born in the United States to Hispanic parents has allowed me to speak both English and Spanish with such fluency you’d never guess which I learned first. However, there’s no denying the frustrations it brings. Without a firm definition of the word “family”, effective discipline and a post secondary plan that benefits you, you allow chaos to steer you. Without balance, there’s nothing. So we must jump off the road when the two roads merge and avoid the debris when the cultures crash.

This article has also been translated into Spanish for our new Spanish Radical Parenting Site:Padres Radicales Here is the link to our blog, if you know anyone who speaks Spanish and has kids, teens or tweens please send it on!

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