All Mexican-Americans (Chicanx individuals) will have an identity crisis regarding their heritage at some point in their lives; this will inevitably happen when they feel that their Mexican homeland nor their American communities will claim them. At some point we feel like we aren’t enough to fit into both categories—Mexican and American—so we exist in limbo, not belonging to either.
As a Mexican-American, existing in the limbo between Mexican and American, not knowing how you fit into either category or not feeling welcome to claim those categories—this limbo is the identity crisis.
It’s not enough to have citizenship in a certain country to make you feel like you belong or to justify to others that you belong there. It is a conjunction of certain features and prejudices that determine whether someone fits into a community: skin color, language, physical attributes, social status—if an individual doesn’t check off certain boxes, it is difficult to feel welcome.
Individuals suffer greatly when they do not assimilate to the culture in which they live in. Chicanx must acculturate to white society in order to survive in the U.S, this process erases their Mexican culture and identity little by little—we forget our Mexican language and customs, we erase or conceal parts of ourselves in order to survive. However, Chicanx have physical features, language tendencies, and cultural habits that ultimately can never be changed—no matter how hard they try—American culture will never accept them as truly American because they will never fulfill certain stereotypes.
When Chicanx folks want to return to Mexico, when they are around Mexican family members, or when they try to revive certain parts of their erased Mexican culture they are punished and ridiculed for assimilating to American culture and are no longer welcomed back as truly Mexican.
“¿Quién está tratando de cerrar la fisura entre la india y el blanco en nuestra sangre? El Chicano, sí, el Chicano que anda como un ladrón en su propia casa.”-Gloria Anzaldua
Due to this alienation from both communities, Chicanx folk constantly modify and shape their identities according to what setting they are in and whom they are with—simply to fit in.
This is a constant back and forth between identities, between Mexican culture and American life, assimilating to one side and then acclimating back to the other side; back and forth until the lines between borders begin to blur and your true identity and essence is lost somewhere in between.
The Chicana scholar of cultural theory, Gloria Anzaldua, sums it up quite nicely in her groundbreaking book Borderlands: La Frontera:
“Nosotros los Chicanos straddle the borderlands. On one side of us, we are constantly exposed to the Spanish of the Mexicans, on the other side we hear the Anglos' incessant clamoring so that we forget our language. Deep in our hearts we believe that being Mexican has nothing to do with which country one lives in. Being Mexican is a state of soul not one of mind, not one of citizenship. Neither eagle nor serpent, but both. And like the ocean, neither animal respects borders.”
Chicanx individuals suffer through this identity crisis because we try to be Mexican-American—we try to be both Mexican and American, when we are actually neither. This is why the term Chicanx draws its power because it is an identity of its own. Chicanx individuals are a synergy of both cultures, not two separate parts—but one new part that is its own identity.
If Mexico won’t claim us and the U.S won’t claim us, then we claim ourselves.
The Chicanx individual is the wound that is beginning to heal as we move forward into the 21th century trying to take back what was taken away from our ancestors. We have survived because of the mixed blood in us, by assimilating but remaining true to our roots—whatever we have left of them.
In the Borderlands
you are the battleground
where enemies are kin to each other;
you are at home, a stranger,
the border disputes have been settled
the volley of shots have shattered the truce
you are wounded, lost in action
dead, fighting back.-Gloria Anzaldua