This past Sunday, I went to my second Vicente Fernandez concert. As the rich sound of his voice and the mariachi washed over me, I had en epiphany of sorts.
Here I was a native Texan enjoying the music of my parents' country in the nation's capitol surrounded by thousands of Latinos singing at the top of their lungs. I felt so fortunate to be bicultural. It also occurred to me that we don't celebrate our biculturalism enough.
When reporters and TV pundits talk about Latinos in America, it's nearly always about immigration and whether or not we're assimilating. It's as if we have to reject one culture and accept the other. It's time we start pushing back against that false choice.
I was born and raised in the U.S. and have accepted American culture as my own. But I've also decided to hang on to fragments of my parents' culture. I really can't let go of them; they are part of me.
I love that Mexicans' lives revolve around family. And not just immediate family, but cousins (first, second and third), aunts, uncles, grandparents, in-laws, etc. If we have an identifiable relative in common, we're family.
There's so much to love about Mexican culture: the language, the food, the music, the holidays and customs. But I also love American culture. My life is a union of both. My family celebrates Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July. We also celebrate el Día de Reyes on January 6 (Epiphany) and 16 de septiembre. We celebrate Mother's Day on the second Sunday of May (U.S.) and May 10 (Mexico).
And then there's the music. I love music in Spanish and English. I love that I can feel equally at home at a Kanye West or Brad Paisley concert as I can at a concert by Julieta Venegas or Vicente Fernandez.
It fills me with pride to see my very young nieces and nephews growing up bicultural. A nephew who just last month turned 3 switches between English and Spanish constantly, and jams out with equal enthusiasm to Vicente and Pitbull.
We don't have to choose. We can immerse ourselves in our country's culture and hang on to our parents'. In the end, it gives us richer and fuller lives. We should embrace and celebrate that.
So following Vicente's lead, I say we toast being bicultural! Salud!
Mary Moreno is the communications director at Voto Latino. Before joining VL, she worked as a crime reporter for five newspapers and as a press secretary for two DC nonprofits. The daughter of Mexican immigrants, she's a proud Texan who currently lives in DC. For other posts by Mary Moreno, click here.