students as well so we hear how imposed identities affect their own ethnic identity. In this paper, my point of view will be that Central Americans experience is often times negatively affected by the American misrepresentation and lack of representation of the Central American identity while obtaining an education in the United States. Given the rapidly growing number of Central Americans students in the US, it becomes crucial to advance the study of this population, in particular, to develop a better understanding of how they progress and stand by their ethnic identity. In this sense, my research will be the first step to build a more inclusive and heterogeneous representation and perception of Central American identities. I am also interested in de-constructing the misconceptions and misrepresentations of Latin Americans in the United States and contribute to building a more accurate and positive portrayal of this group. The analysis presented comes from interviews conducted of two Central American college students receiving an education in the Midwest and my personal narrative. Both
interviewees and I discussed how our experiences are shaped through the representation that Americans have given us. People typically first understand their ethnic identity through parents. Researcher Cynthia Feliciano discusses how “parental birthplace has strong effects on ethnic identification. This is consistent with the idea that family socialization toward identifying with a particular national-origin group will be stronger in immigrant families where both parents are from the same country” (Feliciano 149). Personally, when asked about my ethnic background, I am willing to self-identify as Guatemalan-American because both of parents are from Guatemala and I was born in the United States, in a bicultural (Guatemalan-American) household. Similar to my response, participant 1, Sergio said he identifies as Guatemalan-American because both his parents were born in Guatemala and he was born in the United States. He further discussed that self-identifying as Guatemalan-American is the idea of growing up in the American culture but not fully in it because both his parents were born and raised in Guatemala and wanted him to be raised with their culture. And alike to both of us, participant 2, Elizabeth, identifies as Salvadoran-American due to her being born and raised in a Salvadoran-American culture and her parents being born in El Salvador. With this self-selected ethnic identity, we take it with us everywhere, including when going to campus. Ek discusses how “schools have their own ethnic definitions and labels that do not always validate the identities that [students and professors create] for themselves” (Ek 410).
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- Winter '08
- Indigenous peoples of the Americas