Change in values: My sister vs. Me

Most of what we believe to be morally correct and the values we hold are a result of what we were taught by our family. Many Hispanic immigrants were raised with conservative beliefs and practices, and once they migrated to the United States they began to change due to a more liberal environment. In this blog I will talk about my personal experience growing up in a conservative household in hope to provide a tangible example of this. I grew up with both my mom and dad, both immigrants from El Salvador, and was raised with very similar beliefs they were raised with. Now that I am older and I see how my younger sister, 11 years old, is being raised, I can see that my parents have loosened up and are not as strict with the values they teach us.

For example, growing up, my mom and dad would tell me that I should not get my ears pierced because there was no reason to have them. They said that if God wanted me to have holes in my ears He would have made me with them. It was because of this that I had never really liked the idea of them and thought I did not want earrings. Once I turned 15 I realized that I actually did and begged my dad to let me get my ears pierced. It was not easy but after several confrontations, he finally gave in. This was such a big deal for him that he even recorded the momentous event on his phone. This past weekend I went home for fall break to find that my sister had already gotten her ears pierced, she said it was not that difficult to convince our dad. Now my brother also wants to get his ears pierced but luckily my parents have not strayed so much from their original beliefs that they will not agree to that.

Another example is in the way I was allowed to interact with guys. My parents always told me “senoritas con las senoritas y senoritos con senoritos” (ladies with the ladies and guys with the guys). In telling me this they taught me that girls should make friends with girls and hang out with mainly girls and vice versa. They always told me it was okay to have guys friends as long as he was only a friend and we interacted in groups only, never alone. In a way this always made me self conscious when I talked with some of my guy friends because of fear of what, not only people, but also what my parents would say. When I go to church my younger sister always meets up with a boy around her age and they go off to play and just hang out. Although this is a lot more common now I was never allowed to do that at her age.

These are two very basic examples and I do not mean to generalize for all immigrants. I simply hope to provide a concrete example of the way immigrants slowly start to redefine their beliefs and family values once in the United States. Part of it is because it is more acceptable in the United States than in Latin American countries and slowly it becomes “normal.”

2 responses to “Change in values: My sister vs. Me

  1. As a child of immigrant parents as well, I see where you are coming from. I grew up and still have very conservative parents compared to what society perceives to be normal. Also, just like you mentioned, once these parents travel to the United States, their values are challenged and they are forced to reconsider their beliefs on the topic of sexuality. One of our readings, Gloria Gonzalez-Lopez’s novel Erotic Journeys, clearly presents Mexican immigrants experience into the United States, and how the social and economic changes factor into their sexuality. I hope that more focus is given to this subject so that we can understand another aspect of the immigrant experience in the United States.

  2. I too am the daughter of two immigrants, but I had a somewhat different experience than yours. My parens were both raised by very strict parents in Mexico, however the way they raised my brother and I was extremely liberal compared to the way they were raised. I honestly believe that they became much more liberal than they had every intended, because when I was young they often stressed rules that seemed to either lighten up or vanish completely as I grew older. For example, when I was young my parents used to tell me that I could never sleep over at another friends house. I had to be under there care every night, not somebody else’s. As I started realizing that all of my classmates had sleepovers all the time, I began begging my parens to let me sleep over at a friends house. I begged and begged, until finally, my parents allowed me to stay at the house of a family friend for the night. Though my mother was never allowed to stay at any other person’s house as a girl, she had allowed me, her 10-year old daughter to have a sleepover. Soon after, it became easier to convince my parents to sleep over at another friends house. This was the pattern for many of my parents strict rules. My dad later told that he realized that times were changing, and that my environment growing up was much different than his, and although he admitted there were certain rules from his parents he simply could not change, he told me perhaps I would raise my kids differently, maybe even less strict than my parents had been with me.

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