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Tensions Between Mexican And American Cultures

Good Essays
August Van Patten
Dr. Berglund
ENG 245
10 January 2017
“American…But Hyphenated”:
Tensions Between Mexican and American Cultures
In Pat Mora’s two poems, “Legal Alien” and “Immigrants”, she is expressing the crisis of identity from which Mexican Americans suffer. On one hand, Americans view her (and Mexican Americans in general) as “perhaps exotic, / perhaps inferior, and definitely different” (9-10) while on the other Mexicans view Mexican-Americans as “alien” (11). Caught in between two cultures, and not being fully accepted by both, is the source of tensions in the author’s poetry. Both cultures with which they identify ultimately reject the persons in the poems which causes distress and conflict. The tension seen in the writer’s work
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“Alien” is used later in the poem to also describe how Mexicans view Mexican Americans—which is not how many in the U.S. would perceive their relationship (11). The use of the prefix “bi” is another way in which the poet signifies the distinct Mexican American culture. Opening the poem with the powerful phrase, “Bi-lingual, Bi-cultural” (1) emphasizes the adaptation of both Mexican and American cultural norms in multiple aspects. The people in the poem speak the languages of both countries as well as adopt and combine customs. Therefore, Mexican Americans express sentiments of both cultures, yet are still viewed as foreign by each culture respectively. This creates an odd situation where Mexican Americans are divided culturally yet still exemplifying aspects of both cultures and creating their own cultural practices.
While the poem “Legal Alien” focuses on the struggles of being a Mexican American who is accepted by neither society, “Immigrants” is about how they try to help their children fit into society and make the process of assimilating easier for them. A feeling of desperation is portrayed in the opening line which states, “wrap their babies in the American flag” (1). The parents who feel judged by American society want so desperately for their children to be accepted as true American citizens that they
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