Nurturing seeds of culture

Keeping heritage alive in the US

June 29, 2014

In the lives of the second and third generation American children living with first generation parents and grandparents, heritage is preserved in families through food, language, religion and customs. Few people take the time to study, let alone visit the places they came from, which is perhaps why we are losing our heritage. However, there are older enthusiasts who encourage the younger generation to explore their roots and ancestry.

Martha Lacey, the principal of a K-8 school in Fairfield, CA, brought a group of kids from her school to Angel Island so that they could learn more about how people were becoming a part of the American “melting pot” of diversity. Lacey said that she herself is very connected to her Irish heritage thanks to her father. Growing up, her family’s roots were always “really important to [her] dad … it was a very important part of his Irish community”. Lacey said she continues the tradition of passing on the Irish pride down to her own kids.

Pride in ancestry is not limited to those whose ancestors came to the United Stated years ago. Lamin Sonko, a rising junior at Johns Hopkins University hails from Gambia, a small country in West Africa. He takes pride in “the uniqueness of [his] heritage” as “there’s not a lot of other people from Gambia that also come here,” Sonko said. He claims that Gambia is “not completely underdeveloped” and that there is concept of simplicity there that America lacks. Throughout his weeklong visit to Stanford, Sonko said he enjoyed the palm trees and the beach.

Antonio Baclig, a Stanford graduate student from Hawaii comes from a variety of cultures: with a Filipino father and a Ukrainian mother from Hawaii, a significant cultural background is almost expected. Baclig describes that his father was “never one to try to teach [him] about the Philippines, even how to speak the language or anything like that, but [he’s] sought it out [himself]”. Through visiting the Philippines, he’s grown to understand more of his heritage from his father’s side of the family and takes pride in being able to learn about the Philippines as well as finding his own heritage rather than having it passed down from generations before. As for his mother, he states that “being from Hawaii, she kinda has that culture”; and while he’s not necessarily a descendant of Pacific Islanders, he still has that Hawaiian heritage because his mother was influenced by it just as much as he has.

California locals Malini and Aditi, a mother and daughter respectively, accompany relatives from New Dehli, India while walking towards the Stanford Memorial Church. Despite being born and raised in California, Aditi has gone back to India multiple times with her family and knows of the great differences between India and the United States–there’s less pollution here, less people, and more commercialization. However, in the domain of “public transport, New Delhi’s better,” Malini adds. When asked what made them proud of coming from India, Malini explained that in traditional Indian culture, people are nicer, warmer; whereas in the States, people are colder and more impersonal. She continues on to say that there’s more of a familial atmosphere in India. Families take pride in their togetherness, and they always live with each other, contrasting greatly with individuals in the United States who move out and start their own families. Malini described, “People always live with their parents [in India] and here, it’s like if you live with your parents, it’s embarrassing, sinful”. In India, natives take pride in not only their family but also their heritage, something immigrants with second and third generation children have not forgotten.

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