What: Nelda explains that she first became a Chicana when she read Occupied America by Rodolfo Acuna’s which explored how the Southern states overtook property that once belonged to Mexico. She describes herself as both Mexican and Chicana. “She manages the dual identities of Mexican and Chicana without seeing conflict” (181). Mexican American is a nationality that she was born and raised into. Chicana is the identity she associates herself with a strong young woman. Being both Chicana and Mexican American is remembering your history and where you come from as well as understanding your roots. The author writes that as Nelda associates herself with both Chicana and Mexican American, “it is unfortunate that she is the exception and not the rule” (182). Although Nelda has only been here for three years, she has such a deep and rich understand of American and Mexican history through her books and experience. Culture is not defined by one assimilation, it the fluid mix of many things that influence our opinions.
So What: We are all human beings. We have very similar DNA strands, similar history of our beginning, and we all have a dream. Lorena refers to her job as a human being because it is just a job to be completed by a human being. She shouldn’t be separated as a job for a Mexican American, or a Chicana, or whatever else everyone thought of her. It is a job for a human and that is exactly what she is. Both Lorena and Nelda redefined the labels that were placed on them. Neither identify themselves with a particular group. They sought after education which helped form their identity. They worked endlessly to create a better life for themselves and their families. Education is so important because it is the gateway to more rights and an identity in America. By identity I mean the possibility of a legal citizen rather than the other ugly words associated with undocumented people.
Now What: With education comes new perspective. Nelda learned about how the United States took over some land that once belonged to Mexico. That is the moment that she became Chicana. Her fascination with Mexican American and Mexican history reinforced her ideals as an individual and her place in the educational force. Lorena found education to be her ticket to a better life. Her parents worked back breaking labor jobs, she felt like she owed it to them to get the better education and promote herself in the American world. I feel pretty lucky to be where I am. Both my parents worked themselves out of familial hardships and went to college. My dad really supports me in a school we really can’t afford. He worked full time and went to school full time after eight years in the military. I am a tall, white woman. I feel run of the mill. However, education has only reinforced my great appeal to help people. Education has only brought me to that dream a little at a time. I just want to help people, I don’t want to see the differences between bones, blood, and hearts. Venetia Valley is a very open school. Although they are in hard classes, they are not reprimanded for speaking Spanish or holding onto their native cultural practices. They often communicate more in Spanish to each other and English to the teachers and coordinators. I think it is great to hold onto whatever makes them more comfortable which in the end will help their confidence level as well.