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...
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.