Richard Rodriguez was assimilated through education. At first, this was something that he struggled with because it caused a separation within his family. But through his Catholic school upbringing, the attention given to him by his teachers, and his passion for learning, he adapted. While it hurt him to lose the closeness with his family, he believed that his Americanization was necessary to become a true American citizen.
In his book Hunger of Memory, Rodriguez does give a glimpse of the emotional pain that came along with his assimilation initially. As a young boy in grade school, his parents were visited by the nuns at school and asked them to use English at home. When his parents complied with the request, he felt very torn. English interfered with his ‘private’ life. His home was a place of Spanish language and Mexican culture. Home was the place he would escape the ‘American’ world to feel his Hispanic identity. Once English became his home language, he no longer felt the need to hurry home.
As Rodriguez became more Americanized, he felt an even larger divide between the American culture and his Mexican heritage, with the Mexican heritage being further left behind. He began to lose the Spanish language, and even proudly announced to his parents that his teachers had noticed. He began to feel embarrassed of his parents’ lack of education. He wanted them to be like his teachers, just as he was trying to be. Rodriguez had the opinion that assimilation was necessary to be successful in American society, saying “Only when I was able to think of myself as an American, no longer an alien in gringo society, could I seek the rights and opportunities necessary for full public individuality” (26) For him, this occurred through speaking the English language and studying Western thought.
Rodriguez was faced with being labeled as a minority student in college and graduate school. This became a big issue for him. He felt that he was in no way a minority; he had...