The best of both worlds

Valentina Du Pond, Editor-at-Large

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“I wrote this song about an 11 year old girl who wanted to be a rockstar. She also wanted a normal life, so she pretended to be somebody else. That was great for a little while, but she’s 17 now and life is even more complicated. And she just doesn’t want to pretend anymore.”

As she sat on stage teary-eyed, Hannah Montana slowly pulls off her iconic blonde wig in front of the crowd, revealing her identity as Miley Stewart. The audience collectively gasps.It’s the end of an era, and Hannah Montana no longer exists.

As little kids, the series finale left us heartbroken. For five years, we watched Miley struggle to maintain her two identities. Suddenly, the illusion was destroyed and, by revealing her secret, Miley left us shocked, scared and confused. After all, why would she want to give up her second identity?

Seven years later, I’m here to tell you the true motive behind Miley’s decision to end Hannah Montana—simply put, keeping a double identity isn’t easy.  

As ridiculous as it sounds, Hannah’s situation is easy to relate to for students like me, who have to navigate what feels like two completely different worlds on a daily basis. As a daughter of an immigrant from Guadalajara, Mexico, my home life and my school life are deeply contrasted culturally.

At first, I didn’t understand the gap between my friends’ American culture and the Mexican culture at home. Going into a new school at the age of six in a new area with a strikingly different demographic, I didn’t expect anything to be different. But walking onto campus with only my basic English to get me through, I was crossing into a completely different world.

I didn’t have a normal life. Not at that school. I couldn’t relate to the customs of other students and my English was less than ideal. The words felt awkward in my mouth, as if they didn’t really belong. Once in a while, I would butcher the  pronunciation of a word, resulting in snickers surrounding me. As a six year old, it was mortifying; I knew I needed to do something to fix it.

In the years that followed, I did anything I could to hide my Hispanic heritage, leading me to turn my back on my family’s history and pride in an attempt to salvage my social life in an American public school. Eventually, I refused to speak Spanish completely, even at home.

Eventually, though, I had to learn how to balance the two. Just like Hannah Montana, I had two identities to manage. I was fully American by day and Mexican by night. I spoke English and talked about Disney Channel at school, but went home to talk about telenovelas in Spanish. I ate peanut butter jelly sandwiches at lunch time and caldo de pollo for dinner. I sung Jonas Brothers songs with my friends and Luis Miguel ballads in my room. It was my double life.

But why did I feel the need to seperate the two? After all, they were both a part of me. My Mexican culture was my history, my values, my family. My American culture was my social life, my education, my entertainment. They weren’t mutually exclusive.

The thing is, like Miley, I wanted a “normal” life. Making friends is hard when you feel so isolated from what their normal lifestyle is. There are moments when you have to run entire sentences through your head to look for mistakes before you say them, or reconsider telling a story because your home life had cultural peculiarities others wouldn’t understand.

This is an issue that occurs with first generation Americans everywhere, especially on a campus as diverse as ours. The pressure to quickly assimilate to a new culture is overwhelming, so much so that in many cases one’s heritage is left behind and forgotten.

No child should feel the need to hide their culture to make room for a new one. We need to realize that we don’t need to be one or the other. Two cultures mix together to create one identity. So instead, celebrate the two. Teach your friends how to say words in your second language. Share your Skittles and your Mazapanes. Sing songs from both Disney Channel and Radio Latina.  Reveal who you really are, because Hannah taking off her wig didn’t destroy the rockstar in her; it just showed the world how she was also just a normal girl.