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Being multicultural in America – The State Press

SPM reporter Azzam Almouai discusses his experiences as a Mexican-Arabic American

Cultural identity is deeply tied to how individuals place themselves in the world. For the majority of human history, this was a mostly centralized and singular experience, but globalization has created identities of a much more individualized stock. 

Although cultural diversity is not unique to American shores, it is supposedly a pillar of our society — a supposed melting pot where your identity goes in and through assimilation becomes just like the rest.

This is contradictory to a nation that is ostensibly tolerant to all, when in practice, we see ethnically singular neighborhoods and tensions about what it really means to be American. As an individual who comes from both Arab and Mexican descent, growing up in a mostly white neighborhood brewed an internal conflict that left me lost as to where exactly I fit in.

I had one foot in each door of my cultural identities, but that left me not wholly a part of any them. The differences were never blatant, but they could be found in awkward silences or laughs.

A particular memory stands out when I was at a quinceanera for one of my mother’s relatives. I was about 11 years old, a point in life when dancing consisted of free-form moves garnished with fist pumping.

To most of the other attendees around my age, dancing was more serious. All of them knew the Reggaeton songs to come on and the moves to accompany. 

As I lit up the dance floor with my unconsciously abrasive moves, a cousin of mine came up to me and said, “Dude, why are you dancing like that? Are you even Mexican?”

Eleven-year-old me did not know how to…

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