Richard Rodriguez Richard Rodriguez wrote in his essay, Aria: A Memoir of a Bilingual Childhood, about the struggles he faced growing up as a bilingual Hispanic in American society. Throughout his essay, Rodriguez discussed such topics as assimilation and heritage. He goes into depth about the pros and the cons of being forced to assimilate to the American culture. Growing up Hispanic in America was a struggle for Richard Rodriguez. This was due to the fact that he was a Spanish-speaking boy living in an English-speaking society, and he felt like he was different than the other children.
Rodriguez attended a Roman Catholic school where many of his classmates were the children of high-class lawyers and doctors. He felt out of place because he was a child of two immigrant, working-class parents. Assimilating to the American culture helped Richard feel more at ease among the other American students. In school, Richard spoke English, but as soon as he got home, Spanish was the language of choice. This had a positive and negative effect on him.
By speaking Spanish, it helped Rodriguez preserve his own culture, but as a disadvantage, it yielded his learning of English. A few times Richard heard his parents speak English, but that was only in public. Rodriguez felt safe in his Spanish speaking home because it was familiar to him. English seemed odd and difficult for Richard until a few of Richards teachers visited his house. They asked Richards parents to encourage the use of English, by using it more themselves. As Richard began to hear English more and more, “the high, troubling sounds of los gringos” became unnoticeable to him(92).
Learning English helped Richard to achieve many things. He began doing well in school, he made friends and he began to feel more comfortable talking to people. It also had a negative effect on him and his family. Richard stated, “I no longer knew what words to use in addressing my parents”(93). By speaking English so much, a gap grew between Richard and his parents. His parents mainly still spoke Spanish, and the children spoke English.
He wanted to forget about his Spanish speaking days, and felt that his parents should also assimilate to the American culture. Rodriguez’s change from Spanish to English, is one of the leading factors to his strong belief in assimilation. He feels that it is necessary to be assimilated to the culture you live in. This is due to the fact that Rodriguez had a harder time in life sticking with his own culture. As soon as he made the leap to the American culture, he began having a “normal” life.
Although Rodriguez believes that assimilation is a necessary part of society, I would argue that family traditions and backgrounds are just as important if not more than conforming to a culture. I believe this is true because with assimilation, many lose their family background and heritage. Although I feel it is necessary to learn the language of the culture native to the region, I believe that people can maintain their native culture within another. I believe that Richard Rodriguez could have kept part of his Hispanic heritage and still become Americanized. Rodriguez feels that assimilation is necessary and because of this belief, he partially lost his family. He now has little contact with his parents, because he assimilated to a society different than his parents.
The topic of assimilation is under much scrutiny today. Many Americans feel that they have a “supreme culture” and that anyone who lives in America should follow along with their beliefs, traditions and language. Americans have to realize that we are all made up of different cultures, backgrounds and races. No one culture is better than any other. Rodriguez stands strong on his opinion of assimilation of cultures as stated in his essay. This has its pros and cons.
A pro of assimilation would be that it is quite a bit easier to live in a society if beliefs and traditions are the same. As I stated before, a major con is that your previous culture may be lost. Rodriguez demonstrated his point of view well through his writing. Though I dont agree with all that he has to say, I do believe that his argument was heard. Through his writing, Rodriguez stated not only facts, but also real life experience.
This I feel is critical in writing a good essay, because then the writer truly knows what they are writing about. As stated before, the main point hit on in this essay was that Rodriguez feels it is necessary for people living in a culture not native to them to conform to that culture. I feel Rodriguezs writing was well written and was persuading. Bibliography Sara Garnes, David Humpries, Vic Mortimer, Jennifer Phegley, Kathleen R. Wallace, Writing Lives, New York: St.
Martins Press, 1996, Pgs. 86-96.