My Cultural-Linguistic Heritage
The influence of our inherited cultural and linguistic heritage is perhaps less influential than the cultural and linguistic characteristics of the society we live in. The societal forces of our personal micro-environments largely impact who we are, how we see ourselves, and how we speak.
My ancestors are of European descent, mostly German, Irish, and English on both sides of my family. My mother’s English ancestors are reported to have arrived in Virginia in the early 1600s. Remaining ancestors are said to have immigrated at various times prior to the 20th century. English is the only language spoken in my family for many generations; the last ...view middle of the document...
East Salinas is impoverished and gang-ridden and nearly entirely populated by Hispanics. North Salinas, much of it newer tract housing developments, with a shopping mall and auto center, is decidedly middle class and racially diverse; it also has a significant commuter population who work in the Silicon Valley and return to the ‘bedroom community’ of North Salinas. My friends were predominantly my more immediate neighbors in South Salinas, and reflected the demographic make-up of that part of town.
After high school, I moved to Portland, Oregon for two years. My best friend was Serbian, and I mingled with an eclectic group mostly non-native to Portland. Diversity was valued and embraced in progressive Portland, something I relished and appreciated in contrast to Salinas.
I relocated to Monterey when I returned to California, a coastal town about 20 miles west of Salinas. There I experienced my first personal encounter with prejudice—the quiet disdain for Salinas held by Monterey residents who view Salinas as socially, economically, and culturally inferior. This divide between Monterey and Salinas is known locally as “the Lettuce Curtain” in reference to Salinas’ renown as the world’s lettuce-producing capital. I found myself avoiding the topic of my Salinas upbringing with my Monterey friends who mostly assumed that I had been raised on the Monterey Peninsula.
I don’t recall defined personal instances of discrimination regarding my Salinas origins. Instead I’ve endured a collection of derogatory generalizations and comments about Salinas—such as that it smells of manure and that it is gang-ridden—as well as patronizing apologies that I had lived there. Monterey citizens stereotype Salinas residents as either being poor and Hispanic, or as ‘white trash.’ I find this prejudice incongruent given the international diversity of Monterey residents—they embrace diversity within their community, yet harbor prejudice toward their neighboring city.
I take no personal offense and I feel no need to defend Salinas as I am now ‘divorced’ from the community which I left eight years ago. Salinas is not part of my adult identity. My parents have recently moved to Monterey, my brothers are gone to their respective colleges; no family remains in Salinas, my ties to the city are severed. I have not maintained relationships with childhood friends from Salinas other than token Facebook check-ins. I have adopted Monterey as my hometown, not so much out of shame for my Salinas roots, but out of apathy towards Salinas and lack of any real identification with it—a city which defines people largely by their socio-economic status as defined by their residence. Nothing about Salinas meshes with my young adult identity that has yet to be fully defined by my future. I closed the “Lettuce Curtain” behind me not so much to disassociate from the stereotypes, but because of my own experience with Salinas’s classism, and because I find little that is positive or redeeming...