The Present American Culture

Introduction

The United States of America is a melting pot of different cultures. Based on what is known the original settlers are the American Indians and then the second major waves of immigration are the European immigrants. The Europeans created colonies in the New World and when the English settlers earned their independence a new nation was born. The confluence of traditions, beliefs and cultures coming in from different parts of the world created the present American culture. But the inflow of migration did not stop and one of the major groups of immigrants that chose America as their new home are those that came from Puerto Rico. The proponent of this study descended from Puerto Rican immigrants and this has made life interesting living in New York, in the middle of a dominant American culture.

Overview

Moving from Puerto Rico in the U.S. mainland was fairly easy for many of the immigrants who decided to settle in America. Puerto Rico is more or less a thousand miles southeast of Miami, Florida. Aside from that Puerto Rico is a Commonwealth of the United States. In 1992 an island-wide referendum was held and in a narrow vote of 48 to 46 percent Puerto Ricans opted to remain a Commonwealth of America. This goes to show the close interconnectedness of the two countries.

The link between the U.S. and Puerto goes a long way back into the late 19th century when Spain ceded their colony to the U.S. In 1917 under pressure from activists the then U.S. President Woodrow Wilson signed the Jones Act that granted American citizenship to all Puerto Ricans (Green, par. 9). But before the Americans it was the Spaniards who deeply influenced the natives of Puerto Rico. This means that the Puerto Ricans were introduced not only to the unique attributes of Spanish language and culture but also the most dominant religion in Spain which is Roman Catholicism.

Acculturation

There are similarities and differences when comparing norms of Puerto Rican cultural background and the dominant American culture. In the case of the proponent the best way to compare both cultural norms is to study Puerto Ricans living in New York. In this regard one can easily see the similarities and differences. First of all it must be pointed out that the dominant American culture is the byproduct of the different immigrants present in New York. Yet it can be argued that the Italians, Irish, and the Polish groups contributed much to American culture in New York. Comparing this with Puerto Rico the common denominator is Roman Catholicism. Thus, one way to find common ground is in religion.

Aside from religion the common ground can also be in how Italians and Irish immigrants value family especially when it comes to the extended family. But aside from that there are major differences. One source of conflict is language. Puerto Ricans speak the kind of Spanish language used by modern day Spain. The only difference is in pronunciation (Green, par. 38). Now Puerto Ricans are learning to adapt to the English language and created a slang called Spanglish.

While all cultures value the family the Spanish and African influence on Puerto Rican culture made them value the extended family structure. Puerto Ricans are pro-family. In fact 70% support prohibiting abortion while 80% support voluntary prayer (Reed, par. 19). Religion and family are very important matters in Puerto Rican culture. While Americans obviously love their families and that they believe in God the dominant culture favors a more liberal outlook when it comes to matters of faith. Aside from that the dominant culture deemphasizes the extended family and encourages autonomy for the younger generation.

Challenges

For a Puerto Rican American it is both bittersweet to be in America. The opportunities that are available in the U.S. mainland is a great blessing. The economic hardships in Puerto Rico make it an easy decision to migrate to America and therefore there can be no regrets about the decision of my family to move here. But then Puerto Ricans value family and religion so much that sometimes it is hard to adjust to a new system where God and love for the extended family does not seem to be a priority for many Americans.

The impact of the clash of two cultures makes it a challenge in making friends, especially with those outside the Puerto Rican community in New York. There is pressure to conform to the new standards found in the dominant American culture. On the other hand there is also pressure coming from the family especially the first generation of migrants who are not born in New York and obviously are not yet fully acculturated. It is easy for children of Puerto Rican descent to assimilate but they had to balance family values and those that are distinctly American.

Conclusion

The various waves of migration have transformed this nation. The most important area is New York where men and women of Italians, Irish, Polish, Asian, and Puerto Rican descent tried to co-exist peacefully in one location. Each one had to adjust to the dominant American culture. While the dominant culture is shaping the way Puerto Rican migrants are dealing with matters of faith and family it must also be pointed out that they had contributed to the evolution of American culture. This can be seen in the Spanglish words that are now more evident in American language. This can also be seen in how Puerto Ricans influence music and cuisine.

References

Green, D. (2008). “Puerto Rican Americans.” Web.

Reed, R. (1998). “Remarks on Puerto Rico.” Web.

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