Arturo Islas' Migrant Souls: The Lonely Effects of Assimilation
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The Lonely Effects of Assimilation
The Europeans who claimed what was to become America chose to integrate the land's present inhabitants and future immigrants in order to become the dominating race and, consequently, made other cultures feel inferior to their own. The Angel family, Mexican-Indian immigrants and the subject of Arturo Islas' Migrant Souls, becomes victim to the Americans' forceful demands for conformity. While Sancho, the father, never complains about assimilation, yet never becomes fully "assimilated," his wife, Eduviges, strives to be a part of the American culture. These conflicting reactions and the existing prejudice in the community leave their daughter, Josie, uncertain of her true identity.
In the early 1830's, Mexican-Indians, seeking a better life in the "land of opportunity," crossed the border into America only to find themselves and all who followed forced to assimilate to a new culture. The white Americans pushed their food, their beliefs, their clothing style, and the English language upon these immigrants. Some of the seemingly brainwashed Mexican-Indians saw the American actions as signs of kindness and acceptance. Yet, fearful others considered being caught by the strict American border patrol a "fate worse than death" (490). Immigration officers warned "foreign-looking" people to carry citizenship identification at all times, and they "sneaked up on innocent dark-skinned people, and deported them," possibly also "mak[ing them] suffer unspeakable mortifications" (484, 486). Those legally able to reach America became subjected to American ideals and customs. The whites relocated those unwilling to live the "accepted American lifestyle" to specified areas. Aware of this law, Sancho cynically w...
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...the use of both the Spanish and English languages and the description of a meal of menudos, gorditas, and Coca-Cola symbolize Josie's two identities--Mexican and American.
In the Angel family, as well as in the families of other immigrants, the power of assimilation results in feelings of despair, uncertainty, and inferiority. Eduvige's and Sancho's opposing thoughts on the American culture impact their family's events every day. Constantly in the presence of completely different opinions, young Josie wanders farther from the realization of her identity. And so, forcing families to conform to foreign societies may cause conflicts and destroy the child's sense of self.
Islas, Arturo. From Migrant Souls. American Mosaic: Multicultural Readings in Context. Eds. Gabriele Rico, Barbara Roche and Sandra Mano. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co. 1995. 483-491.