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I am going to write about the search of identity of Stephanie in Mexican Enough by Stephanie Elizondo and the adelitas in The Underdogs by Mariano Azuela.
Identity is "the collective aspect of the set of characteristics by which a thing is definitively recognizable or known."1 "And, the set of behavioral or personal characteristics by which an individual is recognizable as a member of a group."2 According to these two definitions, identity is what allows you to be distinguished from the others, and these characteristics make you to be what you are. What you think, and all the things that make you to be who you are.
Giving a definition of Identity is easy; we can put in words what identity is. And, we can also write about identity but, finding our identity is not easy. According to an article, we have to: "Listen to our gut, Stay in touch with our dreams and goals, express our true emotions, choose our activities carefully and take risks."3
These steps look easy to follow but if we analyze each one of them we can see that they are not.
First, what is listening to our gut? It is to know what we want and puting aside what other people think about it. Second, stay in touch with our dreams or goals. How many of us still remember or think about our childhood dreams? How many of us still think about being astronauts or dancers? I think this is one of the most difficult steps and it is very close to the first one because there are many things we do not do because we care too much about what other people think. So, most of our dreams are forgotten because we are afraid of what people will think about them.
Third, express our emotions. We have to show our feelings, people must know if something they say or do makes us feel sad or happy. We have to express everything, the things we like, things we do not like and even what we feel for someone. Fourth, choose our activities carefully, how many of us have done activities that we did not even like? We have to select our activities and we have to make just the ones we are happy with. Finally, take risk. As the popular phrase say: "do not regret what you do, regret what you did not do" How are we going to know the consequences, positives or negatives, of something if we do not do it. We have to give us the opportunity of making mistakes.
These five steps will take us to find our identity. They will help us to know who we are. In the book Mexican Enough the protagonist and author Stephanie Elizondo lives a constant search of her identity. At the beginning of her book she makes a decision, she was only a child and she had to find her identity "Our reading class had too many students, our teacher announced, and needed to be split in two, One by one, she started sending the bulk of the Mexican kids to one side of the room and the white kids to the other. When she got to me, she peered over rims of her glasses. What are you Stephanie? Hispanic or White?" 4
Stephanie did not read the article about identity; it is probably that she had not known about identity, but she made a decision, "I am Hispanic"5 she said. This quick decision was not easy and it was not correct. Then, she realized that she was not Mexican enough and being with the Hispanics means being too Mexican. So, she went back with the whites. But she did not feel she was totally into the white's world. "I often wondered when their primos would burst onto the scene in their lowriders. And how come nobody ever ate barbacoa or cracked piñatas or shopped for empanadas at HEB?"6
Then, when she was in her senior year in high school she switched back to being Mexican. She started receiving opportunities for schools and scholarships because she was Hispanic. But, she felt a little guilty about it. She did not feel into the Hispanic world either. "Guilt overwhelmed me. Should I give back the money I received? Transfer to a cheaper school? Or try to become that H emblazoned across my transcripts?"7 From that time, Stephanie started the look of her Identity.
The first thing she noticed was that she cannot speak Spanish as a Hispanic. That made her feel bad and concern. She used to say: "If I only spoke Spanish, I would be more Mexican."8 So, after this she decided to go to Mexico. Stephanie spent one year in Mexico. The first things she learned were the different meanings that words have in Mexico, the literal meaning and the "Mexican meaning" She also learned all about the culture, luchas, food, flojera etc. When she was in Mexico she was living as a Mexican woman. She made some research about emigration and coyotes. She interviewed Mexican people. She had Mexican friends and she could be known as a Mexican woman. But she had not felt Mexican yet. "But I cannot help wondering when this Mexification process will end. I have already learned the language, traveled the land. Must I now take cooking lessons? Enroll in Ballet Folklórico? Will I ever be Mexican enough?"9
At the end of the book, Stephanie makes a deep analyze of her life and her heritage. Even she spent a year in Mexico and she has a Mexican heritage, she realizes that she has a white heritage as well. "While my intrepid abuelita Ramona was braving the Río Grande, my entrepreneurial Grandma Madge and her two sisters ran their own hamburger joint during the war, supporting their families and mother. There is a history, culture, and identity on either side of my heritage. It is time to embrace each."10
After a whole year in Mexico, after living together with Mexicans an Whites she concludes that she is not too Mexican but she is not too white either. She finds her identity in both sides of her heritage, she is biracial. She identifies herself with both sides, and she is happy with both of them.
In the book The Underdogs by Mariano Azuela, there are some particular characters that are trying to find their identity too, the Adelitas. What is an Adelita? They are the women that participated in the Mexican Revolution, they did not have a specific role in the revolution, and some of them played the role of nurses, prostitutes or soldiers. Most of them were following a man and others were because they did not know what else to do. Moreover, in the Mexican Revolution time, women were just an instrument to feed men and to make children. "Hey, there, woman: we want food! Give us eggs, milk, beans, anything you've got! We're starving!"11
But, in the book there are two girls, the typical adelitas, La pintada and Camila. Camila follows the revolutionaries because she is in love with Luis Cervantes, and La pintada follows the revolutionaries because she is in love with the güero. When these two girls are with the revolutionaries they do not really know themselves. Camila is totally in love, even when she knows that Luis does not love her she follows him. At the beginning when Luis Cervantes goes away and lets her, she is not happy, and she cries and cries. Then she goes with the revolutionaries but she is not happy either. Luis does not love her and she is not happy with Demetrio's attitude. At the end la Pintada kills her and she dies without finding her identity, and love.
What happens to La Pintada is very similar, she follows the revolutionaries as well, but not because she was fighting for the freedom like the others it was for a man who was not in love with her. When she kills Camila he does not even defends her. Both situations makes us wonder what happen with these two girls, they are in place that does not makes them happy, they are following two men that do not love them and of course they do not have respect for themselves. They have not found their identity, they have not found goals, and they do not express their emotions. And for both of them the end is the same, a tragic ending.
If we compare the adelitas and Stephanie we can see both sides of the identity, Stephanie finds her identity and lives with it. She accepts who she is, she lives her life being herself and not trying to be someone else and of course she respects herself. On the other hand La pintada and Camila do not know who they are, they live things they do not like and at the end they are never happy. That is why it is important to find our identity, and live with it, accept it and have a happy life.