Locals’ use of ethnic labels indicative of experiences, attitudes

Psychology has contributed toward much understanding about ethnic identity and the manner in which the environment influences its development, said Emilio Ulloa, a psychology professor at San Diego State University. Interestingly, college is often the place where a person learns more about their ethnic identity, said Ulloa.

[Note: This article was originally posted on December 12th, 2011. The IFNM website was attacked by hackers and many articles are now gone from the archives. As a public service, IFNM is now reposting said articles.]

It wasn’t until he left the Imperial Valley to go to college that Frank Salazar got his first dose of culture shock. It was as a San Diego State University student in the early 1990s that Salazar said he first met a Latino who couldn’t speak Spanish.

Another novel thing Salazar said he encountered at college was the way people of different backgrounds used different labels to refer to their ethnic identities.

Growing up near the Mexican border in Calexico, Salazar said he simply thought of himself as Mexican-American during his formative years and that his identity is closely tied to having grown up in the Imperial Valley.

“I had a dual lifestyle,” Salazar said. “We’re part of the border culture. It’s the best of both worlds.”

For many Latinos in the United States, the notion of living in two distinct worlds has long been a source of pride, wonder and contention.

Rather than choosing to accept what society tells them they are, many Latinos will seek to discover what their true identity is for themselves.

Although he was involved with the Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan, more widely known as MEChA, during high school, Salazar said college also exposed him to the more sophisticated social justice movements advocated by Chicano activists on campus.


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