How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Gen 1.5: Where an immigrant generation fits in

Photo by K W Reinsch/Flickr (Creative Commons)


The experience of 1.5 generation immigrants, a term used to describe people who arrived in the U.S. as children and adolescents, is a unique one. Unlike their first-generation parents or U.S.-born siblings, their identity is split. They are American in many ways, sometimes in most, but not entirely.

Depending on how old 1.5s are upon arrival, where they grow up, which ethnic group they belong to and a host of other factors, their American/immigrant identities vary wildly, as do the roles they play within immigrant diasporas. They can play bridge-builder and cultural interpreter, helping parents and grandparents navigate their new home. Or they can feel like outcasts, neither here nor there. Then there are complicating factors like legal status, with some undocumented 1.5s growing up side by side with U.S. citizen siblings and peers.

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Report: First and second generation to be a third of U.S. population by 2040

Source: University of Southern California


report released today by the University of Southern California that projects the growth of immigrant generations in the United States has the second-generation children of immigrants poised to make up a larger share of the overall U.S. population in coming years, more so than they have in the past.

Published by USC's Population Dynamics Research Group, the report projects changes in the population of foreign-born immigrants and their descendants through 2040. It predicts slower growth in the foreign-born immigrant population, but growth all the same, with foreign-born immigrants due to comprise 16.7 percent of the population by 2040 (up from 13.2 in 2010).

The growth of the second generation - which includes the older second-generation children of immigrant parents who arrived long ago - has taken a different trajectory over the years, interestingly. Now it's on a steady climb:

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The cultural mashup dictionary: Wi-5?

Photo by TexasT/Flickr (Creative Commons)


Overheard in a public library in South L.A., this language gem is what "wi-fi" can easily sound like to Spanish speakers' ears. There are, of course, those who prefer to turn the term into Spanish altogether, as in "el wifi" (pronounced "wee fee"), but say it out loud and it makes perfect sense: "el wi-five."

This latest entry to the evolving cultural mashup dictionary comes courtesy of blogger, library worker and avid tweeter Art of @Chicano_Soul, who was on duty at the Junipero Serra Branch Library on South Main St. this week when he heard a girl nearby say it. He tweeted:

Sorry. No free "Wi-5" (@ The Circulation Desk)

Thanks for sharing, Art.

Multi-American’s cultural mashup dictionary is an evolving collection of occasional entries, bits and pieces of that fluid lexicon of words, terms and phrases coined as immigrants and their descendants influence the English language, and it influences them.

Recent entries have included Googlear and Twittear and Feisbuk (lots of social media) and perhaps my favorite to date, Tweecanos. The series started off with the meaning and etymology of the term 1.5 generation.

Have an entry to suggest? Feel free to post it below.

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The cultural mashup dictionary: Tweecanos

Photo by TexasT/Flickr (Creative Commons)


I've never met @xicano007, but a tweet from this East L.A. blogger and sports card collector brings us yet another entry for our evolving dictionary of cultural mashup terms: tweecanas and tweecanos.

Here's how it was used, in a tweet from yesterday mentioning an upcoming performance by Aztlan Underground:

RT @xicano007: Next Saturday at the BLVD in BOYLE HEIGHTS join @Aztlanug @laloalcaraz & some tweecanas/tweecanos for a night of rebeldia

It's perfect. Not sure if @xicano007 coined it, but who cares? Plus it sounds like a great show.

Multi-American's cultural mashup dictionary kicked off this spring. It's a collection of occasional entries, bits and pieces of the evolving lexicon of words, terms and phrases coined as immigrants and their descendants influence the English language, and it influences them.

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Introducing the cultural mashup dictionary: Our first term, 1.5 generation

Photo by TexasT/Flickr (Creative Commons)


Just like Southern California’s culture is shaped by immigrants and their descendants, so is its language. There is an evolving lexicon of words, terms and phrases coined here and elsewhere in the U.S. where immigrants have influenced the English language, and it has influenced them.

And it’s worth compiling into its own dictionary of sorts. Today I’m introducing the first entry, a term I use often: 1.5 generation.

Here’s how Wikipedia defines it:

The term 1.5 generation or 1.5G refers to people who immigrate to a new country before or during their early teens. They earn the label the "1.5 generation" because they bring with them characteristics from their home country but continue their assimilation and socialization in the new country. Their identity is thus a combination of new and old culture and tradition.

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