¿Por qué no hablas español? Language and Ethnic Identity Formation Among Non-Spanish Speaking Mexican Americans

Date of Award


Document Type


First Advisor

Rebecca Overmyer-Velazquez

Second Advisor

David Iyam


Previous research on the Mexican American population in the United States, in particular, focuses on assimilation into one pure cultural environment, whereby a Mexican immigrant coming to the U.S. is said to be fully assimilated once they are able to communicate in English. Based on quantitative data alone, some researchers have even suggested that learning English can hinder the retention of Spanish or that Spanish can only be retained through immersion and active participation in the linguistic enclave. However, only two researchers, thus far, have focused on Mexican Americans who have been through the classic model of assimilation and yet are now navigating a dual Mexican and American cultural identity. In this study I argue that identifying as a Mexican American and not being able to speak Spanish leads to conflict within individuals who seem to feel that they are never American enough or Mexican enough due to many social factors. As a result of their hybrid identity individuals are conflicted when their identities are tested by different interactions in their everyday lives. Using a symbolic interactionist framework for understanding identity and based on qualitative data from 12 formal and informal interviews with individuals who identify as Mexican American non-Spanish speakers, between the ages of 18-30 I show that interactions are significant to how a person views themselves.


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