How The Holiday Season Is Changing Mexican and American Cultural Identities

How The Holiday Season Is Changing Mexican and American Cultural Identities

By: Alvaro Ramirez -

The millions of Mexican-Americans who celebrate the holidays in the US and those who travel back to Mexico during these dates are changing the way Christmas is celebrated in both countries.

If you have traveled abroad lately, you may have noticed that national identities are becoming a bit vague. The cultural uniqueness that used to distinguish one nation from another has been disappearing thanks to the accelerated pace of cultural contact brought about by globalization. Mexico and the USA illustrate this well as we go through the holiday season.

Millions of Mexican immigrants, legal and undocumented, as well as tourism between both countries, have created cultural contact zones unlike any in human history. As they have settled in these areas of the United States, Mexicans have adopted American habits even as they have maintained much of the cultural heritage they brought with them. For example, they love Thanksgiving turkey, and on Black Friday you can find them shopping like crazy across the malls alongside Americans.

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December, however, is a Mexican fiesta north of the border. Los americanos are getting used to seeing and joining the solemn Virgen de Guadalupe celebrations around December 12 and breaking piñatas in the noisy, colorful, posadas on December 15-24. Moreover, Mexicans have fused seamlessly Nochebuena (Christmas Eve) and Christmas Day, so they can have their tasty tamaladas and receive the birth of Jesus with tons of gifts the good old American way.

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As many Mexican immigrants return to visit family in Mexico, they bring along these new cultural customs, especially their sons and daughters born and raised in the United States. You can see the influence of these new cultural ways in small towns and cities across the country. Mexicans now have their Buen Fin, a clone of Black Friday, and on Thanksgiving, more and more are preparing a turkey dinner a la americana or go to restaurants that offer a similar menu, according to a newspaper report. As for Santa Claus, Christmas trees and carols, they are the norm everywhere. It may seem strange, but in Mexico City and Cuernavaca, you can even go ice-skating downtown!

You could say Cinco de Mayo was the first cultural celebration to bring Americans and Mexicans together, and that lately, Día de los Muertos and Halloween have provided more cultural glue that binds people on both sides of the border. But it is the long holiday season at the end of the year that is having the biggest impact on our identities and how we see ourselves in Mexico and the United States. Mexicans who visit the U.S. and Americans who travel to Mexico are bewildered by this turn of events. National identities may still be around, but the unique cultural elements that separated them are blending fast and, in some cases, disappearing and becoming a thing of the past. 

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