restricted access 6. The Benefits of Biculturalism: Savoring the Flavors in the Simmering Stew
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164 6 The Benefits of Biculturalism Savoring the Flavors in the Simmering Stew If we made a movie about my life, it would be called “Being Between Two Worlds.” I’m from Mexico and I’m fifteen years old. I now live in the U.S. and I am happy because I am with my family. But, I was sad. In Mexico, I left my friends and a life that I had imagined there. On the other hand, the life that I have now is very fun and interesting . God has given me a family that loves and supports me and that makes me stronger and gives me the motivation to move forward each day of my life. I hope to continue studying and become a good teacher.  ​ — ​ Fernanda, fifteen-year-old Mexican female My life changed since I came to the United States. When I was in Colombia, I didn’t do anything and only spent time in the streets with my friends until really late. But since I came here, I am already doing better in school and I learned that anything can be achieved in life with good effort. Thanks to God that I came to the United States with the help of my stepmother and can move forward. She has offered me the opportunity to learn new things. In the beginning, my mom separated from my dad and we had a lot of problems. There were always fights between my parents but my mother was a woman that no one could change . Then my stepmother came to Colombia to get me and my brother. She took us to the United States. Now I am doing well in school and think about going to college. I have the opportunity because I am almost a resident. I’m going to give it my all.  ​ — ​ Angel, seventeen-year-old Colombian male Considering the difficulties at both low and high levels of assimilation discussed in chapter 5 (see figures 5.1 and 5.2), some researchers hypothesize that moderate levels of acculturation (i.e., a balance between Smokowski_pp130-185.indd 164 10/27/10 1:26:09 PM The Benefits of Biculturalism 165 culture-of-origin and U.S. cultural identity) are the most advantageous for cultural adaptation (LaFromboise, Coleman, and Gerton 1993). Bicultural individuals are those with moderate acculturation levels who have successfully internalized two cultures, that is, both cultures are alive inside of the person. Many bicultural individuals report that their internalized cultures take turns guiding their thoughts and feelings (LaFromboise, Coleman, and Gerton 1993; Phinney and Devich-Navarro 1997; Hong et al. 2000). While it is important to remember that conflicting evidence exists for any of the hypothesized relationships between acculturation and health (Rogler, Cortes, and Malgady 1991), research findings have linked biculturalism with more adaptive, positive mental health outcomes than either separation/enculturation or assimilation cultural adaptation styles (see figures 5.1 and 5.2). Alternation theorists have determined that biculturalism is an important, positive cultural adaptation style within the acculturation process. Alternation theorists suggest that maintaining moderate levels of acculturation in both the host U.S. culture and the culture-of-origin is associated with the least incidence of psychosocial problems and the best adjustment. Proponents of the alternation or bicultural theory of cultural acquisition contend that there is great value in an individual’s maintaining culture-oforigin affiliation while acquiring the second culture. From this perspective , the bicultural individual experiences less stress and anxiety because the person can access skills and resources from both cultural systems to handle stressors (Rashid 1984). Further, individuals who are becoming bicultural maintain a positive relationship with both cultures without having to choose one over the other, which precludes feelings of guilt over preferring one culture. A bicultural individual participates in the two cultures by tailoring his or her behavior to the situation. The two internalized cultures remain distinct and are not necessarily blended together (LaFromboise and Rowe 1983; LaFromboise, Coleman, and Gerton 1993). More important, the new cultural experiences and attitudes do not supplant the established behaviors and attitudes the person has already internalized. Consequently, for the bicultural individual, cultural experiences are cumulative, and assimilation is not inevitable. Alternation researchers believe that society will eventually adapt to increasing pluralism. In doing so, society will begin to emphasize multiculturalism rather than assimilation. With the greater emphasis on diversity, the multiple identities that come with multiculturalism will then be valued as a new form of cultural capital (Trueba 2002). Other...


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Subject Headings

  • Assimilation (Sociology) -- United States
  • Hispanic Americans.
  • Biculturalism -- United States.
  • Minority youth -- United States.
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