How technology and time have made retroacculturation obsolete

By Juan Faura (Hispanic Insight Report)

So I want those of you who can to remember when you first came into this country.  For those of you who came after 1995 listen up children, you might learn something.  Anyway for those of us who can remember what it was like when we first got here let me remind you of a few things.  Remember how if you wanted to talk to folks back home you had to use the phone (land line at that) and remember how if you wanted to know how everyone was doing you had to look at pictures and read letters (yes, actual pictures and letters) and remember how if you were hearkening for a brand from back home you either had to go on a treasure hunt here in the US or go back home or have someone send whatever it was to you?  Remember that?  And remember how when we first got here and you went to school you were one of a handful of Hispanics in school if you were lucky (unless you went to public school in LA or Miami) and do you remember how finding another Hispanic was a big deal and you automatically tended to drift towards that person?  If we wanted to listen to music from our culture we needed to buy a tape or a record of that music.  If we wanted to watch television from back home we had to rely on Telemundo or Univision, period.  If you lived by the border you could watch television from Tijuana.  If you wanted to buy things, snacks, that kind of thing from back home you had to usually go to the bad part of town to find a store that sold those brand.

Before the internet, email, social media and global media keeping your country of origin influence alive required proactive efforts.  We had to make the choice that we wanted to keep connected to our place of origin and take steps to do it.  As teenagers making this choice was difficult.  Did we want to integrate into the culture around us or did we want to keep our birth culture alive?  Most of us being normal teenagers chose to belong, we chose to absorb the culture around us because we knew if we wanted to have any semblence of a social like we had to do it.  This was usually true until our late teens or early adulthood.  At that point perhaps we missed our country of origin culture and decided to explore it more, to make it more a part of who we were growing up to be.  That was the point at which it could be said we went into retroacculturation.  Retroacculturation was the point at which something clicked inside of us and we decided we wanted some of our culture back and we actively went looking for it.  But that was then and as they say this is now.  Just looking at my children and their friends it has become clear that the concept of retroacculturation is completely obsolete.

Technology, global media and the growth of the Hispanic culture in the US have all served to make the concept a  .  Today if my children want to know what is going on in Puerto Rico or Mexico all they need to do is get on the computer.  They chat with their cousins and uncles daily.  They exchange pictures of quinceaneras, their swim meet, their cousins getting drunk in Garibaldi, anything they want to know about is at the reach of their fingertips.  On television they can watch whatever they want, CSI at 8 PM, Al Rojo Vivo at 9, etc. There are countless choices for them to tune into whenever they want in whatever language they want.  If they want to make a play list on their iPod they can buy Metallica, Tito Puente, Cafe Tacuba, Cold Play and Enanitos Verdes in minutes, without moving from the couch.  When they go to school, if they don’t find Hispanics there they know where they hang out, where they gather and surprise, surprise it’s usually a place also frequented by Anglos and by blacks.

The evolution of the Hispanic culture in the US coupled with the technology available to us has made living in the United States as a Hispanic a simple part of life.  We no longer need to engage in a search for our culture, it is all around us.  Children born into this culture grow up with a knowledge of their origins and utilize that knowledge to access whatever aspect of it they are interested in.  There is no hesitation, no conscious choice to be made, they are born into and have the expectation that their choices, whatever their choices may be are a simple part of the culture they live in not something they have to go out and find.  Aside from technology and global media Hispanics are now the second largest population in the US and will only grow even more.  There are areas in the US where the dominant culture is Hispanic.  That population growth has also shifted the way Hispanics are viewed in the US, especially given that Hispanic is not the only culture to have evolved over the decades.  Asians, African Americans and even native Americans have grown to become an integral part of the fabric that makes up US popular culture.

So, the idea of retroacculturation as previously understood and considered relative to Hispanic marketing is dead.  Technology, media and the way in which the overall popular culture in the US has evolved have made retroacculturation completely unnecessary.  As a culture and particularly teens within that culture, we now have the ability to acculturate and retroacculturate at the same rate without a specific distinction as to when either one of them is happening.  The days of engaging in deep introspection in order to decide whether to make our country of origin culture a part of who we are are gone.  Today, by the time a Hispanic teen realizes that their country of origin is and has been a part of who they are becoming their attiude runs along the lines of “Of course it is, what’s the big deal?” which in all honesty is hard to listen to when you remember the angst you might have gone through as a teen deciding just how Hispanic you wanted to be just two decades ago.

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Categories: NGLC Conference

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