Retroacculturation. Retroacculturated. That’s me. Is it You?

16 Responses to “Retroacculturation. Retroacculturated. That’s me. Is it You?”


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  1. Tracy says:

    I find all of it fascinating.

    I don’t know what I consider myself, since I’m not Latina, but as you know, I still feel a strong urge/duty/need to raise my children in the culture of their father, (and immerse myself in it as well.)

    It’s a grasping of sorts, not just for their roots, but for mine. American Anglos typically have such mixed heritage that at times it’s made me feel ungrounded. I don’t want my kids to have that hole in their lives that I experienced.

    Strangely enough, I feel that keeping the language/traditions/culture alive in our family has benefited my husband as well. Sometimes he has that “neither from here nor there” feeling since he immigrated as a teenager. He forgets so much about his native country, yet despite his naturalization certificate, he’ll never completely feel “American”. He’ll always have an accent in two languages, (for now his Spanish isn’t what it used to be, but his English is not fluent either.)

    In some ways, he’s just as perdido as I am ;)

  2. Beautiful, Carrie…All of this is simply fascinating to me. I saw my parents live in diaspora (between two countries, two cultures) and I see myself living in a similar diaspora but one that divides the emotional from the intellectual. The emotional part of me craves for my Latino everything — my mother’s cooking, my tias, mis primos, my grandmother’s old apartment, la musica. But the intellectual, cognitive part of me feels comfortable in the mainstream society I live in — I play well by these social rules and I know how to navigate the system. So, letting go of my heritage is hard, so I keep holding on…anyway I can.

    Thanks for writing this Carrie…

  3. Ruben says:

    Nice post, Carrie. I also loved Tracy’s comment as I identify somewhat with what her husband is going through.

    As a person who works in the marketing field but is also a skeptic, I feel that, while the whole “retro-acculturation” phenomenon as applied to Latinos sounds totally true and I’m very helpful to businesses marketing to us, it’s just a label applied to a pretty universal human phenomenon — one grows up and all of a sudden realizes that one’s childhood small town (whether it be in Iowa or in Morelos or Cienfuegos) wasn’t as dreadful and horrid a place to grow up; that one’s mamá wasn’t a crazy old lady trying to break our spirit but rather a poor parent just trying to keep you from dying, etc, etc.

    I myself left Colombia in part driven by silly fantasies about living a life similar to the characters from Beverly Hills 90210 and leave behind my Colombian working class roots, only to find myself talking to my children not in the refined/formal Spanish they taught me at school but rather the colorful, folk dialect of my parents and grandparents — that’s just what feels ‘real”, ‘authentic’ to me. And why? Because that’s what I knew as a child and like you with your daughter, it would kill me if my kids ended up missing out on that (or whatever version of that I can provide to them in the Great White North of Minnesota).


  4. Ana Flores says:

    I was carefully reading this and thinking: “I definitely fit that category, and so does my blog.” Then, I see your beautiful link to SpanglishBaby. Thanks for that.

    Hmmm…how could I fit “I’m Retroacculturated” into my license plate?
    Ana Flores´s last essay ..Ask an Expert: Will my daughter lose her English skills over the summer if she has little exposure to it?

  5. Monica says:

    Oy. This was me after I had my first child, but it didn’t kick into high gear until I moved very far away from my family and culture. Now I feel like I go around scraping every week to find some part of our heritage to share with my kids.

    It is funny how desperately we want our children to have some semblance of our own childhood, when most of us had already left it all behind as we grew up and into our “Anglo” lifestyles. Then along comes a baby y POW! We want them to have the same experiences, the same emotions, the same opportunities. All of which just goes to show you the incredible impact our childhoods have on our psyches.

    Good to have a name for my neurosis and to know what has driven my actions the last several years!

  6. Lesley says:

    As far as blogs go, I like Lotería Chicana. (It’s here: ) I don’t know if I would identify her as retro-acculturated, but she does write about her life as a Chicana in Los Angeles, and her experiences as a woman who’s very close to her family. You should give it a read. I love Guanabee and Mi Blog es Tu Blog, too.
    Lesley´s last essay ..Hot pot, tea eggs and other Chinese delicacies in Flushing, Queens

  7. Maria H says:

    Thanks for introducing me to a word for my life experience….While I went through many years of trying to run away from my latin roots getting pregnant for the first time made me realize how much the language and culture meant to me, were a part of me, and sent me right back to what I had run away from. Now I feel like its a full time job to keep us connected to the language and culture (far from where I grew up and away from family…) Nice to know I’m not alone.

  8. Carrie says:

    Thanks everyone for the feedback and glad I am not the only one who felt she needed a name for this condition.

    Though, Ruben, I totally see how this term applies to anyone who ever had a hometown or childhood experience. We do often want to reach back, no matter who we are…

    Thank you for the link to Loteria Chicana, Lesley….

    And, Maria you took the words right out of my mouth…

    Happy Saturday, all.

  9. lisarenata says:

    Great post Carrie. It gave me lots to think about…
    Do I consider myself retroacculturated? I don’t know, Ive always had a strong connection to my roots, from music to reading- you name it- it has always been part of my life. And though I was born here and have lived here most of my life (aside for the few years of elementary school that I did in Mexico) I have always felt a great connection to Mexico and it’s culture. I always knew that when I had kids I would raise them bilingual and that my culture would always be a part of theirs, what I did not know is that I would move to a place where “that culture” I was always surrounded by is just about non-existent and to top it all off, I would marry a gringo. This has made raising them bilingual and exposing them to the culture very hard and because of this I do find myself looking for those special ingredients for my platillos favoritos at little Latin marts, or searching the web for great resources to help me with my kids, or buying little cute T’s from Los Pollitos {wink} for my nenes or one for me and wearing them with pride when hardly anyone will be able to read and understand what they say. Does that then make me retroacculturated or not? Great, now one more thing to think about. LOL.

  10. Dariela says:

    Yes, I definitely am retroacculturated I guess. Funny thing is that I used to laugh and wonder when I lived in Venezuela about primos or amigos that came and lived in the US for a couple years and then when they went back they said, it’s so different there, friends are not the same, blah, blah, blah and they ended up meeting Venezuelans, Cubans, Mexicans, etc Any latinos! And I thought, why not just blend with the culture over there? Why are they looking for latinos if they are in the US?? Jeeeez! It really ind of upset me.
    But now, I’m just the sane way! And I do understand why. Even though we marry gringos we still need that connection to our culture in some way! And it’s fascinating to me cause I was really conscious that I didn’t want to do it. How would I be able to survive without my cositas y mi español though??
    Dariela´s last essay ..Las caras de Dariela

  11. Marcela says:

    Perfectly written Carrie! I love this post and can relate. After I had kids I felt the need to reconnect with my culture as well. I wanted them to eat the foods I loved as a kid, experience the trips and shops and stories and songs my mom shared with us.

    Reading your post and comments and seeing products like Los Pollitos makes me proud and with a feeling of no worries about my children and grandchildren loosing their culture. It seems all of us are working hard to share our culture with our children.
    Marcela´s last essay ..On random thoughts

  12. Silvia says:

    As Lisa said I don’t know if I can complete fill under this category, all I knew all my life is that I was Mexican. I lived in Mexico for 29 years, I even promised myself never speak English (when my mom use to signed me up for English classes instead to dance classes, I guess she knew something I didn’t)

    I live in the USA, because my gringo husband went to Mexico to learn Spanish and he found me there! However I feel as you all feel, I miss my family and traditions, I’m sad my kids are growing up with just a taste of Mexico once a year when we visit and the traditions and food I make at home. I wonder how will they feel when they grow up, would they be retroacculturated? Would they feel as Mexican as American?
    Silvia´s last essay ..¡Felíz 4 de Julio- y sorteo – Happy 4th of July- and giveaway

  13. Roxana says:

    I’m with @Tracy’s husband 100%. My sister and I were just talking about all this yesterday. For us, it’s kind of in-between – which is really weird – because we feel like we don’t fully belong here, in other words we don’t consider ourselves “American,” but we feel like we don’t belong back in Perú either because we left such a long time ago and on top of that, although we were born there, we spent a lot of time in other Latin American countries and South Africa growing up and before we moved to Miami.

    It’s the same thing for my husband who moved here when he was 17. I guess for us, we’re like @Angelica’s parents, living between two countries and two cultures, yet we don’t feel 100% comfortable in either one. It’s a strange feeling, I’ll tell you… I think the thing that perpetuates this is that we keep on going back home whenever we get a chance. For me, it’s always at least once a year. And, in years past, it actually used to be several times a year.

    I never went through the stage Carrie describes of rejecting anything Latino because the truth is that’s all I knew until I moved to this country at age 14. In fact, the rejection was the other way around. I wanted nothing to do with this country and I refused to “assimilate.” I only befriended those whose first language was Spanish (which was absolutely no problem in Miami) and I fought constantly with my parents to send me back home to Peru. I was lucky I was already bilingual when I moved here, if not I don’t think I would’ve ever learned any English. My push to “reject” anything American continued on until I became an adult. It is, in fact, how I met @Ana back when we were in college. As soon as I got there, I made sure I identified the Latino group (and by that I don’t mean Hispanic-Americans) but rather the ones who were either like me (had moved to the U.S. as teenagers) or who were just in the States for their college education. I guess I felt more connected with them, than the other Latinos who were born here and preferred to speak English. I can actually say the same thing about my husband. The fact that we came to this country – “against our will” – around the same age and that we’ve always felt like we don’t belong in either place, is one of our strongest bonds.

    I’ve always been fascinated by this whole topic, the statistics, the studies about cultural trends, etc, so I really enjoyed reading this.

    As @Siliva says, I always wonder how it’ll be for my own children when they grow up. In my case, I guess they’ll be the ones to fit the retroacculturated description, or at least I hope so. Things are just so different when all you can do is just kind of give your children a glance at what it was like for us to grow up in Latin America…

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