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The poem "Identity"by Angela C. Trudell Vasquez revolves around factors that people in the United States look at when identifying themselves and others around them. The title refers to the main subject which is identity but also has a deeper meaning which can be interpreted as the double consciousness that racial segregation and discrimination gives individuals who identify as non-white bust must behave like whites to fit in the society. The poem written in free verse includes repetition and connotation to bring out the central theme of the challenges of racial identity in the United States.
The speaker of the poem expresses her experience as a Mexican-American and also points out the ideas other people have about Mexican-Americans. For example, the speaker mentions that a Guatemalan student asked if White-Mexican looks like a Latina but the speaker is quick to indicate that the "Latino"label does not come from her. The speaker then goes ahead to narrate her experiences in the United States from schooling to church activities, the variety of foods, types of neighborhoods and the environment.
The poet carefully chooses words that express confusion or double consciousness that comes with racial identity especially when identifying oneself as a Mexican-American. The speaker who is probably a Mexican-American and the poet uses the phrase "looks like"and "not my label"to show the ambiguity surrounding identity (1-2). Moreover, the poet uses repetition to emphasize some points. For example, the speaker mentions that they were lonely in a town of 5000 people where there were only "one black family/ one Indian family, one Asian family/ and one household of Mexicans"(15-19). The poem is written in one long stanza of 72 lines and takes the form of a narrative.
The speaker's attitude is nostalgic and also reflective. The speaker presents her experience in a narrative form using past tense and repetition that brings out the nostalgia especially when referring to the environment and experiences of her childhood and adult life. For instance, the speaker recalls how they lived a happy and good life with the other Mexican-American family who were "Renterias" and who were related to them by marriage both before and after the speaker's divorce. The reflective attitude comes out through the speaker's analysis of the type of life they lived in a neighborhood with more whites and few people belonging to the minority ethnic groups. For example, the speaker mentions she tries to describe how she grew up in a Caucasian corn country as a way of thinking over the reasons that made her live that kind of life and how it influences her identity.
The central theme in "Identity"has much to do with the meaning of the title. The speaker strives to explain her identity as a second and third generation Mexican-American and the confusion people have in identifying them as either Latinos, Spanish, White-Mexicans, Mexican-American or just Mexican. Besides, the poet brings out the idea that the white culture profoundly influences identity that other minority groups in the United States have to adopt. The poet builds the theme by making the speaker talk about her lifestyle most of which was measured by the White's standards such as schooling, taking music lessons, Christianization as well as playing tennis and golf.
"Identity"by Angela Vasquez is a poem that makes readers realize how ambiguous identity can be when one practices a culture that is different from that of his or her ethnicity. In most cases, persons belonging to minority groups in the United States feel that they have more than one identity.
"Angela C. Trudell Vasquez". Poetry Foundation, 2018, https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/angela-c-trudell-vasquez. Accessed 16 Nov 2018.
Vasquez, Angela C. Trudell. "Identity". Poetry Foundation, 2001, https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/146927/identity-5b05c79b7b931. Accessed 16 Nov 2018.
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