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Social Structure

All throughout civilization, there are social structures that shape and affect all aspects of life, thus consisting of a correlation of race, social-class, gender, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation and so on. Furthermore, each one of these structures has a considerably different impact and implication towards individuals belonging to a certain society. Throughout the years, my family and I have fought and struggled to slowly be able to move up the social ladder. As a result, my family has now been able to live a middle-class lifestyle.

Still, the struggle to obtain that status was difficult to say the least, since my family had grown up under poor circumstances. I believe I come from a generation that went under perpetual transformation, which has inevitably shaped me into the man I have become today and continue to become. As a result, two of the most significant structures that have deeply influenced my life and have formed a solid foundation for myself consist of a combination of social class and gender.

Living an American middle class lifestyle consists of a combination of many factors, which include, education, income, home, car, and occupation. However, the struggle to obtain a middle-class lifestyle as a Mexican-American is demographically different. Although, there are different ways to obtaining a Mexican-American middle-class lifestyle, some people grow up poor and have to work their way there, while others already grow up living a middle class lifestyle. I’m a first generation Mexican-American, whose Hispanic with common roots in Mexico.

Additionally, both sets of grandparents and parents were born in a small town situated in Gomez Farias, Michoacan, Mexico, where everyone knew each other and embodied the Mexican traditions celebrated today. After many years of them struggling to live in a poor environment, my grandparents decided they wanted a better life for themselves and their children, so they decided to move to the United States. Although, my family’s decision to leave their family and friends behind wasn’t easy, they packed up and set forth on a journey that would slowly but surely change their life for the better.

My grandparents and parents ended up crossing over to the United States in the mid 1980’s, where they had high hopes of finding and living a better life in California. However, before they were granted authorization to live and work in the United States on a permanent basis, they had to become a Green Card holder, or what is also referred to as a Permanent Resident. After all was said and done, my family was fortunate enough to obtain their permanent residency cards and began their voyage.

For years, my grandparents and parents worked in strawberry fields in a little city called Watsonville, California, where they were paid a couple dollars an hour and a few extra cents for every box they filled up. My father was the first and only one in the family to go to college after high school, where he would concentrate his studies in blue printing. I was born in Salinas, California during the summer of 1987, but it wasn’t until I had just turned two years old that my father graduated with his certificate.

I was my parents first child and the first Mexican-American in the family. After years of working in the fields, my father was offered a job in Arizona. At this point, my dad brought it upon himself to have the family relocate to Arizona, in hopes of getting a stable job to support his family. After moving to Arizona, my dad focused on his career and began to move up within the company, while my mother took care of the family. We lived in a two-bedroom apartment for a couple years with my grandparents, while my dad was able to save up for a house.

Nonetheless, I had just turned five years old when my parents were able to buy a new car and their first house together. My parents finally had a place to call their own and my grandparents ended up moving in with one of their other children. About a year later, my parents were financially stable and decided to have another child. It as was then that my grandparents moved in with us to help around the house and with the baby. My grandparents had struggled most of their life and were pleased to see one of their children building a better life for themselves and family.

Although my mother didn’t go to college after high school or have a job anymore, she was the woman of the house and had to tend to all the family needs. That being said, I remember on my sixth birthday, I looked up to my father and considered him a hero, someone I wish to be like when I grew up. However, about a year later, my father started getting into drugs and heavy drinking. I was seven years old and can still recall nights where he would stumble in the front door and immediately argue with my mother. Every time I heard my father open the door, I would rush over to seek comfort from my grandma.

I didn’t’ quite understand what was going on at the time, but I knew that it wasn’t his normal behavior because my mother would come out crying each time. At one point, I remember my mom speaking with my grandparents telling them my father was abusing her. I no longer looked up to my father, nor considered him a hero. According to Schmitz & Diefenthaler, a “male-to-male relationships have been characterized by “machismo” which entails extreme aggressiveness and stubbornness whereas in male-to-female relationships “machismo” has been characterized by sexual aggression and contempt” (p. 140).

In Mexican traditions, the head of the household is considered the male, therefore the husband has the utmost authority and the wife has to make ultimate sacrifices for the family. Not long after I had turned seven, my mother demanded a divorce from my father and the court gave her sole custody of my little sister and I. My mother had been domestically abused by my father for a number of months and she didn’t want us living under these circumstances. To this day, my parents divorce has been one of the most significant moments in my life that has left an impact and took me by surprise.

I still remember the house and the last foot steps I took out, while looking back at the first house my parents worked so hard to get. While my father was at work, my mom had me pack what ever I could fit in my ninja turtle back pack and told me we we’re going to Disneyland. I knew something didn’t seem right and insisted that we wait for my father, but was told he was going to meet us there. It was then that the taxi driver pulled up and picked me up and sat me in the back seat. It wasn’t until a couple weeks later, when my mother told me I wasn’t going to see my father anymore.

It was then that I knew I was burdened with taking over the male role in the family, the ideology of growing up to be the “machismo” in the family. For months my mother struggled to provide for us, but with the help of my grandparents was able to barely get by. I learned to do things around the house by watching my grandfather and helping him with anything and everything. I was only eight years old at the time, but I considered myself a man and I needed to do manly things. However, since my father was no longer around, who better to teach me then my own grandfather.

A man who did everything in his power to support his family. I watched as my family went from a middle-class family, down to a lower-class family. When my parents were together, I was used to getting everything I wanted and I couldn’t understand why things changed. My mother got an entry level position at a hospital and worked night and day to support us. During the holidays, we relied on Christmas Angel donations to get any gifts. I remember times when we wouldn’t celebrate the holidays because we didn’t have money to buy gifts or make meals.

The kids at school would talk about places they went and all the gifts they received during the holidays. As for birthdays, my grandma would bake a cake, and give us one or two dollars. As I got older, I heavily took on the male role and became helped my mother and grandparents around the house. I no longer only did things pertaining to the male role, but I learned to cook and clean around the house. My mother was a hero to me, whereas I became a role model to my sister. As soon as I was able to get a job, I started to work and would help my mother pay bills.

I made it my mission to try and get us out of our currently living conditions and would save every penny I had. After high-school, I went to college, but ended up dropping out because school and work were interfering with me being able to support my family. When I turned 21, I started a career that has allowed me to grow and move up within the company. I’m now living a comfortable middle to upper class life style, which has allowed me to buy my mother a new house. I now believe that with hard work anything is possible, one just needs to find the positive in every situation.

In conclusion, over the years, my life has been influenced by a number of significant changes that are out of my control, but I continue to not let little things get in the way. I’m the first in my family to continue his education after high-school. As a result, I believe my parents divorce helped me grasp a better understanding and appreciation for other social classes and gender roles. Furthermore, it has shown me that although society may have a certain perspective on race, social-class, gender, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation and so on, that only oneself can let it take control of your future.

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