How “crossing the border” has become a cultural patter
Mexican and Central American Immigrants
“The U.S.-Mexican border es una herida abierta (is an open wound) where the third
world grates against the first and bleeds” . . . “hemorrhages again, the lifeblood of two worlds merging to form
a third country, a border culture.” (Anzaldua 1987).
Both the U.S. side and the Mexican side of the
border have distinct political, economic, social and cultural systems. At the same time, people of the borderlands have
blended the structures, institutions, and life expressions of the two societies to create something new. This border
culture, blending aspects of both U.S. and Mexican cultures and values, is a marriage of economic necessity for the Mexican
American. Although unprepared to cut ties with the homeland, many Mexicans elect to utilize opportunities present in
America yet retain the culture and practices of their homeland.
Dual border interdependence borne of economic necessity
and advantage, not only to the Mexican people but of the Anglo-American businesses, has combined to produce a culture that
is uniquely its own and distinct from those of the two parent nations. Border Mexicans, Mexican Americans and Anglo-Americans
intermingle at close range, borrowing from and contributing to each other’s cultures to form a “border culture.”
Mexicans on the Mexico side of the border, because
of either their own migratory patterns or those of close family relations, have direct and/or indirect ties to America.
Such links have resulted in heavy consumption of U.S. products and popular culture; however, Chicanismo remains strongly embedded
among Mexican border residents. On the U.S. side, vast numbers of Mexican Americans maintain substantial bonds with
Mexico, thus, they life a bi-cultural lifestyle. Out of economic necessity and by the sheer force of the U.S. “melting
pot” phenomenon, most Mexican Americans of the borderlands, including many first-generation immigrants, have learned
the English language and have absorbed large doses of American culture. At the same time, the proximity to Mexico has
helped maintain a strong adherence to the Spanish language and the Mexican culture. This new cultural identity does
not adhere itself to the Anglo Americans on either side of the border with such regularity as the Anglo American elects, rather
than requires, to utilize the Mexico side of the border for economic gain.
The migratory nature of many of the Mexican immigrants
is another aspect of the cultural genesis of the Mexican. Thrust between the two diametrically opposed cultures the
Mexican migrant of the border region must learn to adapt to the needs of his mother country as he adopts from the U.S. characteristics
which would enable him to succeed in his quest for economic stability. Unfortunately, because of the primary desire
to retain a distinct cultural identity, many Mexican immigrants/migrants do not wish to give up their citizenship to Mexico,
thus, they possess little voice in the laws of the U.S. Without the legal protection that the Constitution offers to
the “citizens” of the United States, Mexican American’s are often victims of the underbelly of the American
economy, as is evidenced in the sweatshops, maquilaoras, and poverty wages paid in the agricultural field. This treatment
does little to encourage the Mexican American to desire citizenship in a country which shows little regard for them, thus,
the Mexican enters a cylindrical process of abuse and rejection, abuse by the employers and government, rejection of them
to emersion in U.S. culture. This cannot change as long as the Mexican does not become part of the exploitive system
which it abhors; thus, change in this cycle will be slow in coming, if it comes at all. Therefore, the culture demonstrated
by the Mexican American is that of a torn citizen of a no man’s land border where identity is expected to be as migratory
as the worker is to the season.
Anzaldua, Gloria. Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. San Francisco: Spinster/Aunt
Lute Press, 1987.