Why I don’t want to assimilate

Sorry everybody… August has almost passed me by and I’ve fallen behind on my writing goals. Today I’m going to share with you something that I previously posted on Soul Tacos. It deals with my struggles of being caught between two cultures. Hold tight though, I’ll have something new for you all this coming Monday. Bendiciones!

Today I was at the airport, placing an order at Einstein Bros Bagels. The gentlemen that tended to me appeared to be of East Asian descent. They had dark skin, spoke broken English, and spoke to each other in their native tongue. As they spoke to each other I listened in amazement. For a moment, I imagined myself walking through the streets of India. I imagined hearing sounds of people talking, music playing, and people dancing. For a moment, I experienced a visualized vacation to another continent. Breathing in the beauty of their nationality and culture, I told them, “Hearing you speak in your native language sounds amazing.” They both seemed taken back, but quickly smiled and said a very sincere “Thank you.” I could sense that they felt a sense of appreciation and pride in that moment.

As I walked away, I began to think about experiences that I’ve had since childhood. As a 3rd generation Mexican-American, I could only dream of people embracing my cultural uniqueness. Instead I’ve found myself in the crossfire of two cultures that simultaneously demand my assimilation. My childhood and adolescent socialization was confusing. Some days, I heard white-kids call me names like “Mojado” or “Wetback”, as they tried to insult me based on the color of my skin. Yet on the very same day I could be called a “Gringo salado” (salty white guy), because I wasn’t fluent in Spanish, or because I had friends that were white. In school, my teachers taught me how to be a proud and productive American citizen. Yet, my family, church, and community members, would try to persuade me to embrace my heritage. Early on, I realized that it was an impossible task to please either party. Even now, in adulthood, it is still common for me to encounter people who frown upon my unwillingness to conform to their expectation of who I should be.

Truth be told, I don’t want to assimilate. …. I’m quite comfortable being me. I want to continue to eat beans, rice, and tacos with a side order of meatloaf and greens. I want to speak in Spanglish, daily, and be proud of my accent even if it sounds like I’m ordering “extra she’s” when I want more queso. I’ll gladly blare my playlist that includes neo-soul, 80’s jams, country, and my girl Selena. I’ll wear my botas on Sunday and my Pumas the next. I am me! I’m 100% Mexicano y cien-por-ciento Americano. I’m Chicano through and through. And perhaps people may not like it….pero no me importa.

Unapologetically yours,


John Eli Garay

P.S. Hey friend! If you find this blog to be of value, please take the time to leave a comment or share it on your newsfeed. It is my desire that my story will bring hope, healing, and encouragement to those who need it. Blessings! 🙂

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Categories: Culture, Life Lessons, Uncategorized

John Eli

John Eli has spent over 15 years mentoring and coaching individuals in life skills, career transitions, and through organizational change. He has worked in behavioral health, pastoral care, and higher-education. He has found that he is most satisfied in life when he is helping people recognize their potential and assisting them to reach their goals.

He currently lives in Chandler, Arizona with his wife, mini-schnauzer and an antique piano whom he calls, “Betty.”


  1. Hi John, interesting post. We are all truly unique and I would think your perspective is correct. In truth, we don’t ultimately answer to anyone but our Lord and last time I checked, He doesn’t use cookie cutters (Samaritan woman at the well). Enjoy your freedom. Grace and blessing!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. foster advocate justice

    Please be you! I love it! I love culture and I have many friends who also love it! I wish my husband had some of his culture left. He is 3rd generation native american and knows nothing about his culture! I love him still 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. foster advocate justice

    It is such an amazing culture. I like that you foster kids! I Am going to be starting foster classes in the next few months. I am really excited.


  4. It’s best to be confident in who you are and in who God created you to be. 🙂 There is surely no pleasing every person on this earth. People can be so fickle. But many can also be mature enough to appreciate the differences in people. The way I see it is God is beautiful and He reflects His beauty through all the different cultures of this world. Thank you for being you!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. New to your blog. Stumbled across it, wandering around in my reader.

    I’m glad I found this post. We, as American citizens, encouraged to be “American” and immigrants are expected to follow suit. Those who don’t read or understand this country’s history miss the fact that immigrants, in general, struggle to “assimilate”. The Irish influx of the early 1900s brought strangers of another country en masse. They didn’t automatically drop their native brogue, their habits, slang or food choices.

    My ex-husband was of Italian descent on his maternal side. His grandfather had come to the US @ 14 & spoke only Italian. He grew up in NYC in an Italian area and lived an Italian life, picking up some English along the way. He fought in WWI for his new country.

    When his wife became ill after the birth of their second daughter (my former mother in law), he needed a wet nurse or the child would starve. No Italian woman would help him so, he wound up getting help from a Russian woman…in a Russian section of NYC.

    Sometimes, setting aside one culture for another is not possible. In your case, you are a perfect example of an amalgamation. Be who you are and make no apologies. 💕

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Guten Morgan Mutter (I had to get that in, since she may be reading). Even though we lived in Alabama, most of our lives, we are not a part of the culture (I don’t know what time Auburn plays on Saturday). Maybe because we lived outside the USA for awhile, our children brought home from college, dated, or just hung out with those of different colors, languages, or cultures. I remember one thanksgiving when my oldest and Muslim friend pulled in the driveway and we hid the ham. I remember my six year old looking at all the people in a church and yelling, WHITE PEOPLE (we just arrived from living in Africa for four years). My wife teaches once a week in Spanish. We try to enjoy all cultures, so one day it will be easier to assimilate (I knew I could get that word in) into heaven.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Jena Harris

    Ok, first, soul tacos? Seriously, you really must be my brother for real. Not just soul brother lol. I love this soon much! Love your writing! ‘I want to continue to eat beans, rice, and tacos with a side order of meatloaf and greens.’ MY FAV! Keep up the great work!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha! Ha!… Thanks for checking this one out too. I used to have a blog that I managed with a friend of mine. We both love soul music and we love tacos. The blog was our way of expressing the struggle of being caught between two cultures as third generation Mexican-Americans. It was a fun blog, but we were unable to keep up with it.


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