Entre dos culturas (between two cultures) : Mexican American university students’ perceptions of pressures experienced and their adaptive strategies among white and same-ethnicity peers.
Olivarri, Roger Joseph
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Individuals of Mexican descent have resided in the United States for more than a century and a half and during that time have experienced varying degrees of acceptance. As American society has generally adopted the view that "foreigners" should assimilate to mainstream American culture, many individuals of Mexican descent have faced demands to distance themselves from their culture in order to adopt the behaviors and values consistent with White American culture. While many ethnic groups may have faced similar circumstances, the experiences of individuals of Mexican descent may differ from those of others due to the close proximity of Mexico to the United States and the constant flow of Mexican immigrants, which together may contribute to their retention of their native culture. As individuals of Mexican descent experience greater contact with their native and White American culture, particularly while in pursuit in success, it becomes necessary to understand what pressures individuals experience when among their White American and same-ethnicity peers. Furthermore, it is necessary to examine how they negotiate their bicultural contexts in response to the pressures they face. Using a sample of university student who were of Mexican descent, this study employed qualitative methods and select measures to explore their perceptions of pressures faced and adaptive strategies utilized when among their White American and same-ethnicity peers. The results from the present study indicated that the participants believed their culture continues to be seen as inferior and is unaccepted by White Americans. As a result of their beliefs, which were reinforced by their minority status, stereotypes, and intergroup experiences, many reported experiencing distress when among their White peers. Among their same-ethnicity peers, many reported experiencing pressure to remain connected to their culture. Despite different definitions of what remaining connected meant, the most commonly referenced criterion included being fluent in Spanish and having to overcome struggles. In order to negotiate their bicultural settings, the majority of the participants utilized an adaptive approach to their bicultural contexts that allowed them the flexibility to draw from both cultures in a manner that was consistent with their values, beliefs, and cultural identity.