A Sociobiological look at Mexican-Chicano Identity in Southern California: Exiting the Labyrinth
National identities have long been discussed within a country’s boundary to explain present phenomena based on historical and social events that have shaped the so called national culture. The concept of group identities has played a large role in the creation of social movements particularly brought about by migration. This research focuses on the role of biological imprinting in the creation of group identities applied to the Chicano identity within the United States, as well as on the evolution of the group’s cohesive cultural and identity elements in contrast with the recent immigrant population’s elements and the dominant ‘American’ culture. The paper presents the problem of a real dichotomy created within the Chicano’s ‘identity’ clash with the vastly different context in which it lives. Moreover, this clash manifests itself sociologically by creating a minority mentality within the Chicano. At times, this may hinder him from full social integration and at others may allow integration through the denial of his cultural roots by adopting the dominant ‘American’ culture.
A challenge to the concept of identity as a mere social construct is also put forward, first by denying the idea of a ‘natural’ national identity and second by characterizing the idea of identity as a human form of expression of the ‘biological imprinting’ concept. The social imaginarium of a national identity must necessarily be actively created through social means. Identity itself is a product of developmental biology within an individual. This research aims to show that identity is no more than the imprint that our surroundings and parents create at an early stage of development. Our identity is not only the social and cultural elements that we perceive, but also the geographical and biological stimulus we attain. A complete picture of identity can only be achieved through developmental and cognitive sciences. However the effect of this biological imprinting on individuals, when built upon two different cultural ‘operating backgrounds’ is real as exemplified by the Chicano case.
Keywords: Chicano, Identity, Sociobiology, Immigration
Hugo Arellano Santoyo
Assistant Researcher, Princeton University