Examining Personal Cultural Identity From a Sociological Perspective Chapter

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¶ … culture from a social science perspective. The second purpose is for the author to describe her own cultural identity from a personal and academic perspective. Combined, these two functions will help demonstrate the strengths and weaknesses in the author's concept of cultural identity, suggesting areas for future study, and also areas of current mastery.

Defining Genogram

A genogram is similar to a family tree, but has much greater detail. In a pure science approach, these genograms can show how diseases or other biological traits are transmitted across generations, or, in the case of disorders that are not heritable, it can highlight that a family may have been exposed to certain risk factors. In the social sciences, a genogram might contain psychological traits or conditions that are passed from family member to following generations, but might also contain information about the relationships between family members. It can help highlight areas of dysfunction, but also point out how the successful strategies that the family members use when facing adversity.

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Chapter on Examining Personal Cultural Identity From a Sociological Perspective Assignment

I am of Puerto Rican descent. I was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico in a middle class Puerto Rican family. I grew up in Puerto Rico, which means that much of what I learned about my cultural heritage was learned through lived experiences. Growing up, I lived the lifestyle of a Puerto Rican, which helped me gain a greater understanding both of what modern culture is like in Puerto Rico and how our heritage helped shape our modern culture. That is one advantage of living in a place like Puerto Rico, where there is less cultural diversity than in some other areas, and day-to-day living reinforces your knowledge and experience of your culture. For example, in school in Puerto Rico I was immersed in both heritage and awareness for Puerto Rican culture. In addition, my family played a critical role in teaching me about my heritage as well. My mother taught me what she knew about her Puerto Rican heritage, and I spent significant time with extended family members like my aunt and grandfather, who taught me about how our family traditions were shaped by our cultural traditions.

Puerto Rican culture is predominantly Catholic, and my family practiced a Puerto-Rican version of Catholicism. Only once I moved to the mainland United States did I realize that the emphasis on saints and some folkloric beliefs are not considered part of the Catholic religion in all parts of the world. Religion was a critical part of everyday life in Puerto Rico. Any notable stage in life like a birth, death, or marriage was marked by a religious ceremony. In addition, festivals and holidays often combined religious overtones.

Furthermore, as with any culture, food plays a central role in Puerto Rican culture. Rice and beans are staple foods in Puerto Rico, and, even after my family moved to the United States, formed a critical part of our diets. Cooking also plays an important role in the culture. A lot of family sharing occurs in the kitchen, so that older relatives teaching younger relatives how to cook not only passes on culinary traditions, but also reinforces other traditions, such as storytelling and singing. There are three Puerto Rican treats that most families have a favorite recipe or version that they pass from generation to generation: pasteles, sofrito, and pastelitos.

While I lived within my culture, as with any other lived culture, there were changes to it that meant that some of the reasons behind the traditions were lost. I have been able to use the internet to learn even more about my culture, especially the historical influences on Puerto Rican culture. In addition, while we do have a relatively homogenous culture in Puerto Rico, it is wrong to assume that it is uniform from home to home. Puerto Rican culture has many different root influences and the result is a Hispanic culture that draws on global influences. I found the following internet sources very helpful when I went to explore my culture: www.yale.edu/ynhti/curriculum/units/1991/2/91.02.06.x.html; www.smithsonianmag.com/trave/puerto-rico-history-and-heritage-13990189/?no-ist; and www.topuertorico.org/people.shtml.

How My Culture Influences My Work with Other Groups

Although I spent my early childhood in Puerto Rico, I moved to the mainland United States when I was ten years old, in 1973. We lived in Queens, New York until 1978, and then we moved to Connecticut, which is where I lived most of my life. While I had a solid Puerto Rican cultural background, I did not grow up solely immersed in that culture, but, instead, spent time in the metropolitan Queens culture and the more suburban Connecticut culture. I think that immersive experience helped me develop the skills I would need to relate to different groups of people.

Specifically, I feel like my Puerto Rican background has given me a surprising amount of tolerance. People outside of Hispanic communities and non-Catholics often think that the traditional gender roles and hyper-religiosity associated with Hispanic communities translates into a lack of tolerance. However, in my own experience, our religious and cultural practices were very expansive, at least in a community setting. There was room to embrace different beliefs and practices and include them inside of the culture, instead of rejecting them as different or other. I think this is especially clear when you see how Puerto Ricans have really blended with the art, music, and dance communities around the world. I like to take a similar approach in my personal life and look at similarities instead of differences, focusing on how to blend seemingly disparate experiences and people together into a cohesive whole.

The Cultural-Ecological Model of Migration and Development

While my background is Puerto Rican, of course I have to acknowledge the pivotal role that immigrating to the mainland United States played in my personal cultural development during my childhood. That is why the Cultural-Ecological Model of Migration and Development is the best model for my cultural background. It begins with a rejection of the presumption that "normative development for children in white middle-class families should be the basis for development in non-white ethnic minority families" (Perreira & Smith, 2007). Instead, it focuses on how five different constructs help shape the development of youth in immigrant Latino families. These five major constructs are: "(1) Child Characteristics, (2) Family Context, (3) Context of Migration, (4) Context of Settlement, and (5) Ethnic Identification" (Perreira & Smith, 2007).

Many developmental models fail to focus on the important role that the child plays in his or her own development. However, the Cultural-Ecological Model of Migration and Development examines how the child influences socio-cultural relationships. While the child plays this important role, it is important to keep in mind that much of the child's influence and interaction is outside of the child's direct control. For example, gender, ethnicity, and appearance all influence development and how the child is treated by people within the culture, and, in an immigrant context, outside of the culture, as well.

The family context is important as well, particularly in Latino immigrants. Many Latino immigrants to the United States are undocumented, which carries with it an atmosphere of fear and increases vulnerability to predation. Furthermore, the likelihood of documentation depends heavily on a family's socioeconomic background. "Less-educated immigrant parents often enter a shadow economy of undocumented workers with no formal support for their presence in the U.S. In contrast, highly-educated immigrant parents may enter the U.S. with travel or employment-based visas and experience little hardship during their journeys, settle in wealthier suburban neighborhoods, speak English fluently, and easily access health and educational resources in their communities. Immigrant and ethnic minority families with fewer economic resources partially compensate for the lack of these resources by relying on support from extended family members and close friendship networks" (Perreira & Smith, 2007). However, these extended community ties can also become burdensome and prevent families from focusing resources on their offspring in the way that other immigrant groups might.

Furthermore, the context of migration can shape immigrant experience. While it would be easy to assume all immigrants now are voluntary immigrants for employment or financial opportunities, even if those opportunities may seem predatory, one must look at the broader context. The historical political relationship between the United States and Puerto Rico is extremely complex, with Puerto Rico being one of the few territories held by the United States in what is essentially a colonial arrangement. While this relationship is now a two-way relationship, it was certainly not always beneficial to those in Puerto Rico. Furthermore, many Puerto Ricans have ancestors who were slaves, whether African or Native American in ethnicity, which means that family migration patterns were not always voluntary. While this heritage many not impact current decisions to immigrate, it will have had an impact on past family decisions, and that impact can last multiple generations. Furthermore, it is important to keep in mind that almost all youth immigrants are, in many ways, involuntary immigrants. "For youth whose parents are voluntary immigrants, the decision to migrate to… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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