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Reflective Essay on My Cultural Identity as Mexican-American

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I am a first-generation Mexican-American living in Los Angeles, California. I identify as being Mexican, an American, and being an Angeleno in other terms I identify as a Latinx Angeleno. Each piece of culture takes part in my cultural identity as a whole. As wonderful as that sounds it was not always easy. There are plenty of times when it feels as if I have to live a double life when it comes to my Cultural Identity. There are places or events in which I have to be more “Mexican” and less “American” or if I was questioned on my “realness” of being an Angeleno and my ability to represent the Westside(regarding the coastal scene). Although this battle came about through the language, traditional holidays, food, and customs an important aspect regarding one’s cultural identity to me personally is music. The clash of identifying as a Latinx and being an Angelino can be seen through music when it comes to representation, language, and lyrical values. In this case, the battle of Latinx music versus Los Angeles music (in this case American music: Rap, Pop, Hip Pop) puts a strain on one’s cultural identity.

I claim that being a Latinx individual in Los Angeles means struggling with different cultural identities. I also claim that music is if not a big and important part of one’s cultural identity. Through this paper, I will approach music as it is part of one’s cultural identity, and Latinx musical representation, and dissect the Los Angele music scene. Meaning those who identify as Latinx Angelno have a high chance of facing a struggle in combining or overlapping both cultural identities due to the separation of genres and cultures in the music itself. For example, Latin music is a category in the United States, Westside music is its own subgenre in rap in the coastal music scene. It has its own culture. Whether you are listening to the oldies but goldies Los Angeles Azuls or Bad Bunny trying to navigate both cultural identities on an individual level is as difficult as it but including mainstream media, it becomes even more difficult.

Music has always been a big part of my life. From family parties where tios and tias would blast rhythmic cumbia beats followed by some Mexican gritos, a type of yelling in the Mexican culture uses to symbolize happiness and joy. Or being a little kid and being woken up on Sunday mornings by the glorious sounds of Vicente Fernandez and Juan Gabriel. In modern-day where my friends and I are given two choices for our Friday nights on whether we want to attend a “Row” party where music is often a mix of EDM and Pop or a multicultural frat house that has musical arrangements ranging from oldies but goldies 90’s jams with Bad Bunny and J Balvin sprinkled in every few songs. We always seem to choose the latter.

Overall music has been tied to who I am, a part of my cultural identity. One’s cultural identity “is the identity or feeling of belonging to a group” according to (National Society). Along with food, language, values, and traditions, music helps make up one’s cultural identity. This is the case for the mass majority of Latinx individuals when it comes to not only identifying but celebrating their culture. In a study, “Music As A Cultural Identity: A Case Study Of Latino Musicians; Cultural identity”, a group of researchers selected a few Latinx musicians in Ohio and question them on how music is an integral part of their cultural identity. Although this study was not conducted in Los Angeles the researchers state similar results could be generated with other Latinx identified Musicians (O’Hagin, Barbara, and Harnish). The Latinx musicians reported the importance music has on their own as a cultural identity.

Musicians and community leaders are interested in creating a positive modern image for both cultural outsiders and insiders and reaching out to their community. Music also has a role in cultural traditions such as preserving oral and musical traditions as well as the emotional bond experienced within the community. They also want to reconstruct negative aspects of traditional culture such as toxic masculinity and machismo and continue focusing on the collections, strong family, and community emphasis. Latinx musicians have not shied away from this, modern-day music has continued to range from fun party beats to music that speaks out on issues(political/economic/stereotyping) Latinx people are facing. For example, some Los Angeles bases Latinx artists such as Chicano Batman, La Santa Cecilia, and La Cafeterias have a range of songs. Some pertain to the political climate such as “Freedom is free” while other songs are simply about enjoying oneself.

Latinx music has become more popular not just in Ohio or Los Angeles but throughout the states. This raised even more questions regarding the Latinx music scene in Los Angeles and the impact it has on one’s cultural identity. Did the lack of representation of Latinx musicians and music in mainstream media cause an unintentional riff between Latinx individuals living in the United States? A 1999 article from the Los Angeles Times, stated that the Latinx music scene in Los Angeles was booming during the ’90s. Breaking records and topping the charts with Enrique Iglesias and Selena Quintanilla (Valdes-Rodriguez).

The Latinx Music scene was popular yet awards shows, music festivals, and halls of fame were still lacking Latinx musicians. Even with the lack of representation, Valdes-Rodrigues states that the Latinx music scene continues to outsell other genres. This could be because of the increasing population of Latinx consumers. Although this article is two decades old, it connects to a more result article “Music representation in awards and festivals and charts this”. This article which takes place twenty years later is about the previous lineups in Coachella. Coachella is a famous music festival that has drastically increased in its popularity. Over the course of ten years, the festival has had a rise of Latinx musicians, for example, the 2018 Coachella festival had the famous Los Angeles Azules, Bad Bunny, Cardi B, and even Los Angeles Boyle Heights cumbia-punk band Thee Commons (Roberts).

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The increase in representation comes from Latinx individuals speaking out both as a consumer and a producer. As the years go by Latinx individuals become more intertwined with the musical aspect of their cultural identity. This is evident in the 2019 Coachellas lines up and the increase in other Latinx music festivals. A few that take place in Los Angeles or Los Angeles county are Tropicali, Mariachi USA, Dale Fuego, and Calibash. Although these festivals encourage all types of music. Latinx music is the main focus. Some Latinx musicians who perform mix genres, such as Cumbia EDM, or Latinx Trap (Brown). Overall Latinx Musicians’ popularity in the US has risen. Shining a light on the new wave of artists/music who represent the diaspora. Latinx Music Community is a melting pot of Indigenous, Native, African, and Iberian cultures, all mixed and represented in music, food, and languages. Latinx American cultures have influenced cultures from the east coast to the west. From Puerto Rican New Yorkers' musical beats to western Cumbia rhythms in Los Angeles (Spotify).

The Latinx music scene in Los Angeles is also transforming. With this wave of representation and celebration of the US Latinx culture, the Los Angeles music scene is beginning to evolve. Several years ago, the Latinx music scene in Los Angeles was struggling. In the article “What's Wrong With Los Angeles' Latin Music Scene?”. Cota stated how there was a problem in the Los Angeles music scene in recent years, more so how there is a problem regarding the Latinx music scene. Latinx Bands and musicians were becoming more and more populated but weren't sticking as other mainstream artists.

The lack of representation in mainstream media, the musicians would often separate their music from different cultures. For example, language barriers or more so the lack of incorporating the two languages of English and Spanish, and forcing their audience to generally “pick a side” was one of the reasons why Latinx bands are not as popular as other “Los Angeles music”(Cota) and another reason as to why Latinx individuals were struggling within their cultural identity with music, having to choose between different artist for different languages. Another reason why the Los Angeles music scene was having trouble was because of the genre itself. Sticking to one genre and not merging created a riff between cultures. However, in the most recent years, the Los Angeles Latinx music scene has been shifting. Many artists have been noticing either the lack of interest from their Latinx audience or their struggle to find some identification with them and they found a way to change it. Cultural hybridity.

Throughout the journals, several researchers came about the concept of Cultural Hybridity. According to Frello who conducted a study on the concept of Cultural Hybridity. The concept states that cultural hybridity is the idea in which more than one “cultural or social theory” postcolonial, finds a balance between their values, practices, and their customs. Cultural hybridity is important throughout history showing that an increase in globalization and population has created cultural hybridity communities and clusters (Fratello).

Cultural hybridity allows for new ideas and interdependencies to grow (Fratello). Cultural Hybridity is most likely to be found or created in immigrant communities. Los Angeles is a polyglot city of dreamers. Not only do people from all over the country but the world travel to Los Angeles. According to the Census quick facts database, 48.6% of Los Angeles county is of some Latino or Hispanic descent (Census). There is bound to be a cultural hybridity occurrence. Latinx Angeleno's cultural hybridity through music is an important adaptation taking place. This is because of the need to adapt to a new environment allowing us to find a balance between worlds (Albert). Cultural hybridization is the process in which a new identity is created that mirrors a duality of culture. The construction of a new cultural identity allows for different beliefs to merge. In this case Latinx Angelenos. The previous study mentioned by O’Hagin, Barbara, and Harnish regarding Latinx musicians and music being a part of cultural identity also reported that the Latinx musicians who were interviewed started to focus on combining their music to reach a new generation. A (first)generation that was produced by immigrants (O’Hagin, Barbara, and Harnish).

A few examples of cultural hybridity musical artists are Chicano Batman and Cuco. Both of these artists are Los Angeles-based Latinx musicians. Chicano Batman when interviewed talked about the need for an increase in Latinx musicians to not only represent but to provide an outlet for the first-generation individual (Democracy Now!). During an interview with Amy Goodman front singer for Chicano Batman emphasized that their music and message are a mixture of all their cultures; being Mexican, American, and Angeleno. Cuco also showed similar emphasis in his music. Combined English and language lyrics. Breaking Latinx machismo and showing everyone that men have emotions with his very sentimentally open lyrics. Allowing Latinx Angeles to be a part of two cultural worlds.

I am a proud Mexican-American Angeleno. Fortunately, when my family came to the states they wanted to continue celebrating where we came from but they also knew that growing up here meant learning some of the western traditions. This inevitably meant that I had the opportunity to not only learn but be a part of three different cultures. Representing the Westside, as a proud Hecha en Mexico but built in America individual. Although there is an invisible battle of having to claim one more than either (Marchi) however throughout researching my paper I have learned to encourage multiculturality especially when it comes to music.

There is a new subculture emerging in Los Angeles where Latinx culture and Angeleno culture have fused. This combination has progressed into a multicultural blend. The cultural hybridity, a cross between two cultures has taken place in the Los Angeles Latin music scene. Los Angeles Latinx artist has started to redefine their music by blending languages, transforming old traditional ideas that are outdated, and creating new positive cultural reinforcements through lyrical poetry. Music is still an important aspect of one’s cultural identity. Those who identify as Latinx Angelenos also have the opportunity to embrace their cultural hybridity and cross between two worlds. My initial hypothesis was that they were separate cultures regarding the Latinx Los Angeles music scene which resulted in a struggle for the cultural identity of both, after researching I now see that something different has been happening. I would like to hypothesize that this will soon be taking place all over the states.

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