What is the main theme in Richard Rodriguez's essay "The Fear of Losing a Culture"?

The main theme of the essay "The Fear of Losing a Culture" by Richard Rodriguez is the assimilation of cultures.

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In the essay "The Fear of Losing a Culture" by Richard Rodriguez , the author writes of his ancestral Hispanic culture in relation to his homeland the United States. To properly understand his point of view, it is important to realize that Rodriguez was born in San Francisco as a...

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In the essay "The Fear of Losing a Culture" by Richard Rodriguez, the author writes of his ancestral Hispanic culture in relation to his homeland the United States. To properly understand his point of view, it is important to realize that Rodriguez was born in San Francisco as a US citizen, and he grew up in contact with disparate cultures. His parents were immigrants, and in his childhood he spoke mainly Spanish, but as he became more involved in academia, he also experienced immersion in American culture. In his first book, Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez, he documents a sense of alienation from his Hispanic culture through his studies. Although the book received praise from critics and won several awards, some Hispanic people accused Rodriguez of selling out to the American culture at the expense of the culture of his family.

The main theme of "The Fear of Losing a Culture" is the assimilation of cultures. However, the title of the essay is in a sense ironic because Rodriguez does not fear the process of assimilation. In fact, when it is accomplished correctly, he admires it. He uses Mexico, the country from which his parents and grandparents came, as an example of a country that has successfully accomplished the assimilation of diverse cultures. He points out that as a whole, the country is mestizo—that is, a genetic and cultural mix of Indians and Spanish. This blending has been accomplished so successfully that it is taken for granted.

On the other hand, Rodriguez argues that the United States, in the spirit of Protestant individualism, continues to emphasize separateness, or diversity, as a guiding principle. Americans are willing to assimilate other cultures in a capitalistic sense—for instance, by appreciating Asian and Latin American food and entertainment—but they are reluctant to take the further step of absorbing and integrating the essence of Hispanic-American culture: the depth, passion, and commitment to life. Only when the Catholic Mediterranean and the Protestant north, as Rodriguez characterizes the Hispanic and American cultures, become fully integrated, as in a marriage, will America experience the best of both worlds.

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Richard Rodriguez's essay "The Fear of Losing a Culture," addresses assimilation and argues that it produces a beautiful blend of cultures. There is a fear among some Latinos that Latin American culture is going to be lost as many immigrate North. Rodriguez acknowledges this fear but uses many examples to show that Latin culture is resilient to change. Ultimately, Rodriguez calls for a more overt expression of Latin culture in the US and encourages his peers to embrace their culture on a new land. He argues that Latin culture has always been a melting pot that mixes well with all the cultures introduced to it. He shows how Latin music has been a blend of African drums and German accordions. He shows how there is much in Latin culture that the US could learn from. For example, he says that the value Latinos place in leisure could be a great benefit in the hustle and bustle of American culture. He argues that when the two cultures meet, something beautiful will happen. However, both parties must learn to stop resisting and enjoy the new culture they make together. He says,

We will change America even as we will be changed. We will disappear with you into a new miscegenation.

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In Richard Rodriguez’s 1988 essay “The Fear of Losing a Culture,” the writer addresses what it means to be a Latin American in the United States.

He discusses both a reluctance and desire to assimilate into American culture, despite the hostilities of an American populace that both fears immigrant cultures and desperately wants to emulate them.

Rodriguez’s main theme, then, is that both Hispanics and white Americans must be willing to share their cultures in order to create a new one. Rather than fearing the loss of culture, as the title implies, Rodriguez portends the creation of a new, distinctly Americanized version of traditional Latin culture.

Rodriguez is hopeful that the differences between mainstream white culture and Latin American culture (“the ancient tear”) can heal “[themselves] in the New World.”

Thus, Rodriguez suggests that the old culture will not be lost but rather transformed.

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The main theme of Rodriguez's essay is that Latin American culture will not disappear as Latin American people immigrate to the United States; instead, Latin culture will form a synthesis with North American culture. As he writes, "The genius of Latin America is the habit of synthesis. We assimilate." He writes about the way in which Latin America has created new "bloodlines" through the introduction of one culture to another. For example, the music of Latin America is a "litany of bloodlines," as he writes. In other words, Latin music merges many traditions, including the African drum, the German accordion, and the Muslim call to prayer. While the U.S. was shaped by Protestantism, which insisted on maintaining a distinction and distance between Europeans and Native Americans, in Latin America, there was what Rodriguez calls "meltdown conversion" characteristic of the Catholic conception of the world. This means that different cultures combined in Latin America.

Rodriguez, who wrote this essay in 1988, believes that the American culture, long insistent on individualism, is ready to embrace more communal cultures--the Asian culture and the Latin American culture. He believes that North Americans might embrace the Latin idea of leisure and of emotional expression. He thinks that now is the time for Latins to express a less timid version of their culture in the United States. As he writes, "expect marriage," meaning that both the Latin American and North American culture will change as the two cultures mingle. 

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