Differences between people are abundant in society and especially in a society like American society where so many different cultures have come together in one place. The United States is seen globally as a melting pot, where immigrants are often forced to give up their own cultural values in order to be accepted into American society. I am an immigrant who has always seen the differences between myself and other people in this country. One thing that began to allow me to see beyond these differences was the painting How Mali Lost Her Accent, by Pacita Abad. This painting showed me that I can succeed in this country, despite my differences, as long as I believe that I can and work hard to achieve my goals. I may not be as familiar with American culture as most Americans, but I can still achieve all of my goals as long as I work hard and have the confidence that I can achieve anything.
Pacita Abad was born on a small island in the Philippines in 1946, but she went on to enjoy a painting career that spanned more than three decades. Pacita studied political science in the Philippines, but political and social problems in her country caused her to flee to the United States in search of a better life. She started out in San Francisco and quickly became interested in art once she was there. This interest in art caused her to enroll in both the “Corcoran School of Art in Washington D.C. and The Art Students League in New York City” (Pacita Abad), which got her started on her long and illustrious career. Once she had finished school, Pacita began to travel around the globe, using her experiences as inspiration for her work and also incorporating the techniques that she learned into her various paintings. She lived on 5 continents and worked in over 80 countries during her career, which shows how much diversity her works and techniques have. Pacita’s contributions go further than just her pure artistic talent, however, as she used her work to make political statements a lot of the time, especially in her earlier work because it was influenced by the political problems in her homeland. Pacita did things differently than most artists because she did not confine herself to a studio, but rather traveled around the globe, using the many influences that she encountered to help her work. Her painting How Mali Lost Her Accent is especially significant to me because it shows much about the immigrant experience in the United States. The United States is usually seen as a giant melting pot where everyone who enters is automatically expected to assimilate to American culture or else be persecuted for it. American society is well-known for this, as many immigrants find it necessary to either attempt to shed their historical cultural identities because it makes it so much easier to succeed in the United States. Pacita’s work questions this way of doing things by showing that even though she was educated in the United States, she is able to incorporate countless different cultures into her art. This idea of multiculturalism is significant because it is a different way of doing things than most Americans were brought up to believe. Many of Pacita’s works show how difficult it is for immigrants to attempt to keep some of their historical culture, while still fitting in with the other members of society. Pacita also did not limit this to her own culture, as her travels allowed for her to be opened up to many different cultures, while still maintaining her own cultural identity.
The painting How Mali Lost Her Accent, and other works by Pacita, has made a significant difference in my life because they reflect much of how I am feeling. When I came to this country, I did not know much about American culture, other than what I had seen on television or read about in magazines, so I did not know what to expect. What this work shows me is that despite this, I will be given the opportunity to succeed in this country, while still maintaining some of my own cultural values. Since the United States is often looked upon as a melting pot society, I did not know if I would have to give up on my own culture in order to be accepted into American society, even though “no other place in the world has such a diverse population“ (Millet). I wished to be accepted into a major American university and this painting shows me that this is possible, even if I am still not entirely familiar with American culture. I can still dream big because I can achieve all of the things that I want to in this country as long as I have the confidence in myself that I will be able to make it happen. Pacita Abad has shown me that despite all the differences that I possess from other members of American society, I can still be successful in the future without giving up all of my historical cultural values, as I still respect and value my history. When I first came here, all I could focus on were the differences that I could see between myself and other members of society. It has taken some time, but I have realized that these differences are not going to prevent me from succeeding because many different people from different cultures succeed here all the time. It will be my work ethic that will decide whether I succeed or fail, and I believe in myself enough to know that I will always work hard enough to succeed.
My first experience in America could have been the one that made me give up for good. I was visiting the country for the first time and knew very little about what the country was actually like. My English was still developing and no one else who was traveling with me could speak English at all. Trying to communicate with people at airports, in taxis, at hotels, and at restaurants was very traumatic because despite my best efforts, I did not have the vocabulary to express myself effectively. Added to this problem was the fact that most Americans are not very accommodating towards those who do not speak proper English. I was looked up as being less intelligent as everyone else, simply because I spoke a different language than them. I was treated very rudely in a variety of different places and this hurt me greatly because I have always prided myself on being a good person because you will usually be treated well by people if you are nice to them. This did not happen on my first visit to America and it caused me a lot of hardship. I was stuck focusing on the differences that I saw, as was everyone else around me. All they could see was that I spoke differently than them, and they judged me based on this. When I decided to make America my permanent home, I was terrified. My English had improved significantly, but I was still left with the memory of how I had been treated in the past. I still saw so many differences between myself and Americans and I know that they saw these same differences and were judging me because of them. Even today, I can sometimes see these differences and I wonder if I can say that I truly belong here, but when I look at that painting by Pacita Abad, I realize that I can succeed despite these differences and without having to give up my own culture to become completely assimilated into American culture. I do value American culture, but I also wish to keep some of my own and Pacita Abad has shown me that this is possible.
My life in the United States is much different from many Americans, but also very similar to that of many immigrants, as it is believed that “that this country can transform people of every color and background into ‘one America’” (Booth). The differences between cultures will always be present, but this does not mean that immigrants will not be able to succeed. Coming from another country, especially when coming with an open mind, can create a great situation for an immigrant. I am proof that once we get by the differences that we may have from others, that we can all achieve our goals in life and be successful.
Booth, William. “One Nation, Indivisible?”. The Washington Post. 22 Feb. 1998. Viewed 1 August 2006. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/national/longterm/meltingpot/melt0222.htm
Millet, Joyce. “Understanding American Culture: From Melting Pot to Salad Bowl”. Cultural Savvy. 2000. Viewed 1 August 2006. http://www.culturalsavvy.com/understanding_american_culture_2.htm
“Pacita Abad”. About Pacita. viewed 1 August 2006. http://www.pacitaabad.com/aboutf.asp
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