Clash of Cultures: Growing Up Biculturally


I grew up in a Mexican family with Mexican food, Mexican values, and the main language of Mexico. I would be just a normal Mexican girl living the typical Mexican lifestyle if it weren’t for the soil I was born on. The US. That fact instantly made me more than just a Mexican. It made me Mexican American but at times it feels like I’ve been more American than Mexican.

As a child, I never questioned who I was, as to me, there was no doubt— I was just Mexican that happened to be born in America. Then I started school, which opened my eyes to a new and unfamiliar world. Everything introduced in school was drastically different from what I’d grown up with to that point. My school and home became two different lives I lived. At school, I tried my best to relate to the kids as there were little to no Hispanic kids I could talk to.

At home, my English learned from school was to be used to help translate documents my parents didn’t understand, but I still spoke Spanish and followed and indulged in traditions and holidays never mentioned at school.

Soon it seemed like my school life was slowly integrating into my home. I spoke more English as I got older, ate more American dishes, and participated in American pop culture. This was reinforced by the fact that the majority of my friends were American, so I was constantly exposed to the more typical American lifestyle and spoke more English to communicate with them.

 At first, I didn’t think much of it since I was still living in a house that spoke Spanish and was very much Mexican, but then one day when my mother spoke to me I responded in English. I was shocked by my answer. Why did I automatically respond in English? I quickly fixed this mistake by speaking Spanish, but I found it difficult to express myself. Difficult. To. Speak. A. Language. I. Grew. Up. With. I couldn’t believe it. I was struggling to speak my mother tongue and this caused me to question my identity as I asked myself:

“Am I really Mexican or even Hispanic?”

Suddenly I became hyper-aware of not only how different I was from my American friends but also from other Hispanics too.

This sentiment became stronger and continued to grow in high school as I saw all the Hispanic kids grouped together. I saw how they seemingly always found each other, constantly speaking Spanish. I would wonder why I wasn’t with them. Didn’t help that people would often mistake me for Indian, feeding my insecurity of not being Hispanic enough. In the Hispanic community, people thought my interests were strange and very American, but to Americans being brown and having the ability to understand Spanish was good enough to be called Hispanic.

I was confused about myself being in this weird limbo. My blood and flesh were Mexican but my tongue and interests were more American, though I could never fully call myself American. Not when I grew up in non-tradition American life and culture. But the very fact I struggled with Spanish made me feel like I was not worthy to call myself Hispanic of any kind.

Despite this confusion, I’m glad to have grown up biculturally and I have no resentment towards either side. It may take a while for me to figure out what it means to be a Mexican American as I grow and decide what cultural values I choose to pass down and keep. For now, I know this much. I, Marlene Penaloza Gonzalez, am a Mexican who enjoys eating tamales, enchiladas, tortas, and sopes. I enjoy watching Teresa, La Rosa de Guadalupe, La Familia Peluche, and Lo Que la Vida Me Robó. I enjoy listening to Prince Royce, Romeo Santos, and reggaeton music. I am also American. Sure I may not fit the typical description of an American but that’s the beauty of America. There is no one true way of being American and everyone experiences the American life differently. America is and will always be a mixing pot and one day I hope to find my perfect mixture.