Losing the Latinx identity

Story and photo by KARA D. RHODES

Culture has always been an idea that people hold close to their heart as it brings families, friends, and generally speaking, people together. What happens when people decide that their culture is no longer important to them? Killing their culture little by little by not accepting or not keeping their culture as prominent as they once had before.

Alex Guzman, president and CEO of the Utah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, is mainly a hard-hitting businessman committed to the growth of the Latinx business community. Guzman is a family man who fears his children are losing their culture that he is fond of. In an interview, he tells a story of his son getting ridiculed at the local elementary school for not speaking English well enough for his teacher to understand him.

Now, immersion schools assist with teaching those who have a first language that is not English. Guzman says he wishes his son hadn’t had to go through something so traumatic. This taught the young boy that his language was not correct and forced him out of his culture. Guzman likes to speak Spanish while he is home; his son now speaks Spanish with an accent that is not from his culture.

Christian Oregon, a 23-year-old student with family origins in Acapulco, Guerrero, Mexico, says, “Culture is very important to me. It sets us apart; we value a lot of different things. My culture has helped define and shape me into the person I am today. I always remember my roots. I take huge pride in my culture so it’s definitely important to me.”

Oregon says he believes that his culture is stronger than ever despite all the push-back from the political climate. “We’re staying strong together because we have people thinking we’re all drug dealers and criminals. The racists are believing everything Trump says. We have people yelling at us with their MAGA (Make America Great Again) hats saying, build the wall, but we are fighting back and we’re not letting them take away or make us feel bad because of our culture.”

As strong as Oregon says the culture is, he believes that there are still people losing the culture. He says the times are to blame because people want to “fit in” nowadays. “Latinx people believe they should forget their culture to advance in today’s society,” Oregon says.

Oregon says there are ways to preserve their culture. “People can conserve their culture by sticking to their roots and teaching everything they’ve learned from their family onto their children. Doing this preserves our culture and keeps it alive. I think it’s just about passing it down from generation to generation.”

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Combining cultures: Amanda Ruelas, left, is Navajo while her husband is Latinx. She is pictured with her daughter, Gabby Ruelas. 

Amanda Ruelas, a mother of three, is immersed in multiple cultures including the Latinx community. Ruelas had a difficult time explaining what culture means to her but that it is very important. “I do feel that the younger generation is losing culture. They definitely see it different than I do. Especially my eldest daughter, Gabby. She is so interested in fitting in that she doesn’t want to understand our culture as much,” she says.

Ruelas’ husband, Vic, speaks Spanish but didn’t take the time while the children were young to teach them. She explains that they should have started teaching their kids both Navajo and Spanish when they were younger because her daughters are no longer interested in it. Ruelas is Navajo while her husband is Latinx.

Culture is clearly a big part in the Latinx community. Some believe it is thriving while others can see it slowly fading away. According to a summary of a 2014 forum at Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University, “Cultural heritage affirms our identity as a people because it creates a comprehensive framework for the preservation of cultural heritage including cultural sites, old buildings, monuments, shrines, and landmarks that have cultural significance and historical value.”