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A Mexican Immigrant Expresses Ambivalence about Her New Life

Elisa Silva was born in Mazatlán, Mexico and emigrated to the United States at age twenty, eventually settling in Los Angeles. In this interview, conducted during the mid-1920s, Silva describes her ambivalence towards the culture and traditions of her new home.

Of the customs of this country I only like the ones about work. The others aren’t anything compared to those of Mexico. There the people are kinder than they are here, less ambitious about money. I shall never really like living this way, besides since I don’t know English and believe that it won’t be so easy for me to learn it, I don’t believe I will ever be able to adjust myself to this country. I don’t have time to study English, nor do I like it.

Life, to be sure, is easier here because one can buy so many things on credit and cheaper than in Mexico. But I don’t know what it is that I don’t like. My younger sister, who is in a business college learning English, says that she likes this city a lot and the United States as a whole and that if we go to Mazatlan she will stay here working. She is thinking of learning typewriting and stenography, both in English and in Spanish, so as to work in some American business, which will pay her well.

I don’t suffer in the matter of food, for my mother cooks at home as if we were in Mexico. There are some dishes which are different but we generally eat Mexican style and rice and beans are almost never lacking from our table.

I am a Catholic, but I almost never go to church. Sometimes before coming to the dance hall I go to church, even if it is only to pray a little. I think that I have only confessed myself some four times in my life. My mother is very Catholic. She, and my younger sister also, go to mass every Sunday. At home we have a large image of the heart of Jesus and my sisters pray to it at night. I don’t think of remarrying because I am disillusioned about men, but perhaps if some day I should find one who would really care for me I would love him a lot. If I do marry some day it would be with a Mexican. The Americans are very dull and very stupid. They let the women boss them. I would rather marry an American than a pocho, however.

[Note: Pocho is a term used by native-born Mexicans to describe a Chicano who is perceived to have forgotten or rejected his or her Mexican heritage.]

Source | Elisa Silva, interview by Manuel Gamio, in Manuel Gamio, The Mexican Immigrant: His Life-Story (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1931), 159-162.
Creator | Manuel Gamio
Interviewer | Manuel Gamio
Interviewee | Elisa Silva
Item Type | Oral History
Cite This document | Manuel Gamio, “A Mexican Immigrant Expresses Ambivalence about Her New Life,” HERB: Resources for Teachers, accessed September 24, 2018, https://herb.ashp.cuny.edu/items/show/2581.

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