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How this Chicana Learned to Embrace her Cross-Cultural Life

Ashley Wilson remembers an assembly line in her grandmother’s kitchen days before their Thanksgiving celebrations. In her cross-cultural family, it is traditional to gather together and help prepare an assortment of tamales — a traditional Mexican dish that is made of corn-based dough (or maize) and filled with any assortment of meats, chili, cheese, beans or vegetables. These dishes are commonly made for holiday celebrations or special occasions, and the process of making this delicious corn husk-covered dish can take a village. Literally.

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In most Latin-American cultures, it is tradition to marry someone within the same culture and religion to make the transition into “una familia,” as Wilson suggests, more unified. But Wilson’s Mexican mom fell in love with and married Wilson’s Caucasian dad, so Wilson, who was raised along with her brother in Austin, Texas, U.S. experienced an upbringing combined with both Chicano and American traditions, both of which have a wide variety of cultures already embedded within their roots.

But while growing up, Wilson didn’t understand that she was any different from her white peers, mainly because she believed that since her father was predominantly Caucasian, she too, could be represented as such. Slowly, this idea began to shift.

“I would be with my family and be the cutest little Hispanic girl, but when I was at school, I thought I had to assimilate and blend in with everyone else,” Wilson says. Going to a primarily white high school, Wilson began to see the differences in her own hidden diversity.

As a teenager, Wilson was very outgoing; she made friends easily and was always looking for an opportunity to have fun. Being a cross-cultural kid, these characteristics align with her personality and ability to adapt to different environments. But even with these adaptive qualities, sometimes it was hard not to ignore the racial or stereotypical connotations based on people’s perceptions of skin color. Ashley mentioned that in high school, after a party at her parents’ house, people began to suggest that she may be of Mexican decent. “Isn’t it obvious?” Wilson says. She didn’t understand how her peers hadn’t already inferred that and shared that the situation was one her first encounters with racial attitudes.

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Wilson has gone on to do great things for herself. In her success, she has acknowledged that without her cross-cultural upbringing, she would lack a broader worldview, which would limit her ability to be empathic and understanding for those who struggle with their own personal identities and cross-cultural backgrounds. She believes that people should not be defined by their physical attributes, but rather, by their character and motivation to succeed.

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6 comments

  1. Your article pulled me in immediately with your first paragraph, the imagery is vivid. Wilson’s thoughts about having to assimilate and blend in are very common TCK feelings and her experiences in high school are very indicative of what it’s like to grow up with those experiences and thoughts. I loved the end, that she believes “people should not be defined by their physical attributes, but rather, by their character and motivation to succeed” A very positive takeaway.

  2. This is a great story to share and I think many people would be able to relate easily. I grew up in predominantly white schools and neighborhoods. On the outside I look Hispanic and was treated as such, even though I was like many kids coming from a white (French) family. I love the quote you ended the article with, “she believes that people should not be defined by their physical attributes, but rather, by their character and motivation to succeed.”

  3. This article has such a tangible description of the struggles that come with being a CCK. I am a bicultural kid myself and can relate to the lack of understanding from one’s peers and the complicated feeling of growing up between cultures. I love that Ashley has embraced her CCK identity and is willing to share her story with the world!

  4. ” She believes that people should not be defined by their physical attributes, but rather, by their character and motivation to succeed” I find this line as an ending extremely inspiring as hidden diversity is so important when we are considering peoples identities and feelings towards their culture or a culture they identify with. I think this article could bring in a wider audience as I think many people relate to differing from the culture they look like.

  5. You can never assume anything about anybody, hidden diversities matter just as much as visual diversities. I know many people that struggle to be a part of a culture and not ‘looking’ like you are a part of that culture. This article is so relatable because I don’t look like what I am and people tell me al the time that I don’t look Black or Puerto Rican but there is not a single look for everyone. Love this article.

  6. This article is helpful in putting an emphasis on the importance of remembering that not all diversity is visual, there are many factors that are hidden and make us all different, and sometimes those can be challenging.

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Celebrating Cross-Cultural TCK Identity
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