Second-Generation Hispanic Immigrants and Losses

Children of second generation immigrants who were born in the United States face a unique situation. In many cases, they may not identify with their parents’ home- land but at the same time may also feel different from the mainstream culture. As Glenn (1996) observed, the children who are born to immigrant parents may have no connection to their parents’ country of origin and its customs, but at the same time are considered foreign within this country. This often makes them disconnected from any sense of belonging to either country.

Our last story is that of Dolores, a Nicaraguan woman who was born in Managua and moved to Miami when she was just one year old. Although she was raised like a Latina, she does not identify with this culture. She is acculturated to the United States, according to Cafferty and Engstrom’s (2002) definition: “[Acculturation is] the process of taking on the culture of another population or society at the expense of one’s own culture” (p. 115). Now an adult, she speaks only English and does not engage in any Latin traditions.

Dolores, Age 30

I came to this country when I was just one year old, so it is like if I was born here. I remember, as a young child, how my mom wanted me to learn Spanish, and for this reason she spoke to me only in that language. At the beginning it was great. I spoke Spanish with her and my grandmother, who did not speak English at all, but would watch the cartoons in English. When I entered school, I had many Latin friends, mostly Cubans, but we spoke in English. Little by little I got used to speak[ing] only English, so the way of communicating with my mom was as follows: She talked to me in Spanish and I responded in English. Only with my grandmother and my nanny I spoke Spanish. I didn’t like it. Besides, I didn’t want people to think of me as a “Latina immigrant.” At home my mom used to play Latin music all the time, and I hated it! The worst thing is that she wanted me to like it. When my friends from school visited me I was embarrassed they would hear this music.

What is funny is that most of them were also Hispanics, from Cuba, Nicaragua, Colombia . . . but many of them also disliked the music or the language. As I grew up many things were imposed on me that I internally rejected. One of them [was] the constant reminder of my mom, as I moved away from home: “Remember to call your grandmother on a regular basis. In Nicaragua my grandmother lived with us.” I know over there [it] is different with older adults, they are taken care of by their children and grandchildren, but here I also have a life. Although I love my grandmother, I cannot be attached to her like my mom wants me to. Another aspect that was not easy growing up was going back to my mom’s homeland because I didn’t feel I belonged there. I became acculturated to the United States, like most of my friends. Still, now that I am 30 years old I really wish I could have paid more attention. I am not able to cook any Nicaraguan dish, and I even call my mom asking for recipes. Now I want to go back to Nicaragua and discover all the beauty it has to offer.

Dolores’s Losses

  • Loss of tradition
  • Loss of language
  • Loss of self-identity
  • Loss of family contentedness

In assessing Dolores’s story one can find subtle losses. Although she identifies with the American culture,certain aspects of herself are now showing some nostalgia for her ethnic heritage. This is the case with many children of Hispanic parents who are born in the United States or who, like Dolores, came here at a very young age and became acculturated.

This article was taken from the book written by Ligia M. Houben, “Counseling Hispanics through Loss, Grief, and Bereavement. A Guide...


Remember Your Life Has Meaning!


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