Bonita Vista High School is a melting pot for the different cultures across the globe. Many students share more than one ethnicity which can impact their cultural identity. The heritage of students can play an important role in how they describe themselves. The Oxford dictionary defines heritage as a property that is or may be inherited; an inheritance. A person of mixed heritage is therefore someone who has been transmitted more than one legacy or inheritance.
Junior Ethan Castro and freshman Savannah Groom Castillo describe their mixed heritage as something that provides an opportunity to make a connection with multiple cultures in their family tree.
“Having a mixed heritage has a considerable impact on my life. It is a source of pride for me. I’ve always seen [my heritage] as a unique aspect of who I am and a great opportunity to identify the different cultures we practice,” E. Castro said.
With Chinese and Hispanic descent, the Castro family makes an effort to stay connected with their heritage through contrasting cultural traditions. Both of Castro’s parents were born in Mexico but his mother’s heritage is also from China.
“My mother celebrates the Chinese New Year with her family. We celebrate with various dishes representing our Asian heritage as well as gifts such as ‘lai see,’ a red envelope that holds a monetary gift,” E. Castro said. “In contrast, my father’s side practices holidays such as ‘Cinco de Mayo’ and ‘Dia de Los Muertos.’ It’s very common for me to be celebrating Asian culture one day and Mexican culture the next.”
Staying connected with family and traditions is a priority for the Castro family, requiring careful coordination, travel and compromise.
“Both of my sisters live out of town, but they make an effort to see the children at least one weekend a month. My sons are the only nephews on my side of the family. In the Chinese culture that is really important because boys are believed to pass along our heritage to the next generation. On my husband’s side, we take the kids to visit their Abuelita and other family in Sonora, Mexico,” mother of E. Castro, Maribel Castro said.
In addition to providing unique foods and celebrations, heritage can also sometimes influence physical appearance. Skin tone, eye color and hair texture can prompt a curiosity about heritage. S. Groom Castillo believes her appearance often begets questions from other students.
“I see myself as unique to my classmates and that’s a great thing. I have a light skin tone from my mom and tight curls from my dad. It can get bothersome when people are always asking ‘what are you?’ but it shows me that people are interested in knowing more about my background,” S. Groom Castillo said.
Groom Castillo’s ancestry is a combination Trinidadian,Venezuelan, German, Spanish and Mexican. Her father was born and raised in Trinidad but his heritage is from both Venezuela and Trinidad. Her mother is Hispanic and European with roots in Germany, Mexico and Spain. While S. Groom Castillo identifies with all parts of her mixed heritage, she may participate in one culture more than the others.
“I believe the Mexican culture and traditions are very dominant, in general. The culture is just in the house. My mom also cooks a lot of Mexican dishes and I’ve traveled to Mexico several times,” S. Groom Castillo said. “We [occasionally] get together with friends from Trinidad and cook curry. I haven’t been to Trinidad yet.”
Both E. Castro and S. Groom Castillo identify with their multiple heritages by connecting with relatives, participating in multiple cultural traditions, eating traditional foods and traveling abroad. At times one culture may dominate and this may be related the time spent with one specific relative or parent.
“I think Ethan identifies more with his Chinese heritage rather than with his Hispanic side. Perhaps because he spends more time with me while his dad is at work. There’s rice in the rice cooker every day. We eat Chinese food at the house on a daily basis,” mother of E. Castro, Maribel Castro said.
For centuries, science studied how DNA and the environmental impact human development; the nature vs. nurture debate. Hollywood has even made movies involving the idea of this subject, telling the stories of twins separated at birth and the impact different environments had on their development. Oddly, heritage (ancestry) is present in both DNA and environment (upbringing). The way children are raised is most likely related to both the parents’ heritage and their personality.
“I am a little bit more strict in my parenting, but I think that comes from my own father’s personality. He was German. My Hispanic upbringing also influenced a conservative [style of parenting],” mother of S. Groom Castillo, Guillermina Groom Castillo said.
In some cases, parents may decide to raise their children in a decidedly different manner than the way their parents raised them, consciously disassociating with a specific heritage or perceived cultural norm.
“Unfortunately, I was raised to believe that material objects and status were very important. As a parent, my kids happiness is the priority for me, not necessarily their careers. I don’t believe that money or status is going to buy their happiness. On my husband’s side, he didn’t have the type of relationship with his parents where he could speak openly with them about any subject. In the Hispanic culture, there are a lot of taboo subjects. In contrast, we have an open policy at my house where my kids can ask me anything they want,” M. Castro said.
Heritage can influence how we choose to live. As the family tree continues to grow, people seem eager to know more about their roots and unique history. Heritage and ancestry are important for many across the globe.
“Knowing where you come from, being taught the traditions of your ancestors, and being proud of that is a liberating experience,” E. Castro said.