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Cultural Identity and Ethnicities’ Integrity Significance in Mora’s Poetry

Pat Mora’s poetry book Chants illustrates the essentiality of heritage conservation and the relationship between different cultures. She is a Mexican American writer who is well-known for her biculturalism style. She puts emphasizes the problem of adaptation of non-acceptance of immigrants of Latin origin in the US. The writer also tries to talk about the importance of diversity among people and how multinationalism can be beneficial. Mora’s three poems named Elena, Bribe, and Legal Alien from her Chants collection covey much insight into the challenges faced by Mexican Americans. They also illustrate the significance of the protection of someone’s origins and interaction between different ethnicities.

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Mora is an activist, poet, and writer who always fights for justice for all nations and encourages the unity of people at the same time. She is the second generation oexican American born in El Paso, Texas (Pat Mora Books). Therefore, she well represents both cultures and demonstrates the beauty of the infusion of different entities. The poet skillfully integrates the scenery of Mexican landscapes and modern American customs in most of her texts. She is bilingual who manages to use Spanish words and expressions in American literacy. She comments about the aim of her writings as, “I write, in part, because Hispanic perspectives need to be part of our literary heritage – including children’s literature and juvenile poetry” (Pat Mora Books). Consequently, Mora’s writings call for the remembrance of each individual’s roots and the preservation of one’s language.

Immigrating and adapting to a new life in another country is a stressful and strenuous experience. Mexicans are the biggest group of immigrants living in America. They constitute almost 12 million people of the whole US population (Ponciano et al. 1). The studies demonstrate there is more discrimination against Latin immigrants than other ethnic groups in the country (Ponciano et al. 2). They face several challenges when searching for a workplace and communicating with neighbors. It seems adults tend to adopt harder compared to the younger generation. They often experience depression, anxiety, high self-reliance, and detachment from society after prolonged habitation in a different environment. Thus, the issue of acceptance of immigrants in other countries is relevant to many people around the world.

Mora’s short poem, Elena, is an example of writing which exposes the hardships the people encounter in a foreign land. The work describes the life of the woman as a Mexican immigrant in the US. The central theme it holds is the distancing of a mother from her children due to cultural differences. The author highlights language as the reason behind the misunderstanding between kids and their parents. The main character, Elena, is not fluent in English, whereas her children go to American schools. Hence, the English language prevails in her household and overall surroundings. Elena feels isolated and detached from society, and most importantly, from her children. The line “I stand by the stove and feel dumb, alone” indicates the character’s loneliness in the new place (Mora 11). Then, the writer adds another contributor to the change of the kids. She compares the times spent in Mexico and how different the children were before moving to another state. Now, they are grown-ups and chat with American teenagers and adopt their habits.

Immigrants often undergo difficulty with self-acceptance after arrival in a foreign state. Researches show that it is common among Latin American immigrants to feel insecure and unconfident in the first adaptation period (Ponciano et al. 2). They are often pressurized by the urge to learn a new language and attempt to balance different traditional values (Ponciano et al. 3). The lines from the poem “Embarrassed at mispronouncing” and “Sometimes I take my English book and lock myself in the bathroom” illustrate Elena’s despair and feel of shame because of her inability to speak comfortably in English (Mora 16, 18-19). She has to force herself to study and fit into her family. Elena gives a good description of the feelings and situation of the person who is an outsider in the community.

Similarly, the poem Legal Alien continues the expansion of Latin American Immigrants’ social issues. It discusses the rejection of the settlers in both countries since they are not like Americans even though they try to, and they are not entirely Mexican despite their origins. The poem starts with positive notes, showing the benefits of knowing two languages. The Mexican immigrants can use English at work and do not hesitate when ordering in a Spanish restaurant. They are comfortable with their new life and can enjoy different cultures. However, the mood of the writing suddenly changes after the words “American but hyphenated” (Mora 8). Mora reveals the judgments of Americans regarding newcomers and the inability to return to Mexico due to their transformations.

Immigrants might be legal workers and able to speak in English, but they are still strangers to the host country. The author talks about the problem of humans, rejecting those who do not fit the standards. Different nations often have stereotypes about other nations, and they frequently judge people by their appearance and language. The lines from Legal Alien, “by smiling, by masking the discomfort of being pre-judged bi-laterally,” are the proof of thestruggles of the Mexican American immigrants (Mora 19-22). They have to endure the humiliation from natives and pretend everything is normal.

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Besides showing the problems of Hispanic settlers, Mora also focuses on promoting the unity of diverse groups. In Bribe, she writes about the importance of human interaction and diversity in a strong community. The poet fuses the Indian rituals with her customary life as a Mexican. She writes, “I scratch a hole in the desert by my home. I bury a ballpoint pen and lined yellowing paper. Like the Indians,” describing her American style writing, which still resembles Mexican roots (Mora 13-15). Mora talks about the Indians to demonstrate the indigenous culture of the US. She further mentions desert meaning the natural landscapes of Mexico, her origin. The author delicately merges two distinct cultures into one and shows the beauty of symbiosis. Moreover, Bribe plays a crucial role in identifying the fundamental concepts of the writer’s work since it is the poem that starts the collection. The first text gives the main point of the whole writing. Therefore, Mora’s primary purpose is to reach readers’ minds and lessen the distance between various ethnicities.

In conclusion, the three poems from Chants book consider the challenges Mexican American immigrants face in the United States. Pat Mora is the bilingual representative of Latin and American cultures who masterfully engages separate notions from two different cultures in her works. Elena and Legal Alien introduce the difficulties in the lives of immigrants during the adaptation period. They face prejudice by Americans and feel isolated in a new environment. The poem Bribe depicts that countries’ multiformity and the unity of ethnicities can improve the relationship between humans and promote creativity.


Mora, Pat. Chants. 2nd ed., Arte Público Press, 1994.

Ponciano, Cynthia, et al. “Attachment, Acculturative Stress, and Mental Health of Mexican Immigrants.” Counselling Psychology Quarterly, 2020, pp. 1–16., Web.

Pat Mora Books, Author Biography, and Reading Level. Scholastic. Web.

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