Multi-American | How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Terms of assimilation: What do we call people who assimilate into another culture?

A panel that I moderated last week on what defines the 1.5 generation, immigrants who arrive in the U.S. as children and adolescents, yielded enough material for many, many related posts. Panelists and audience members connected over identity, the immigrant experience as lived by young people and how it shapes them, among other things. And of course, the role of language.

On the language front, a follow-up question via email this week from an audience member, my KPCC reporter colleague Adolfo Guzman-Lopez, has prompted a great collection of replies from the panelists. First, his question:

In Mexico the word "pocho" is used to describe someone who's left Mexico and has assimilated into another culture. Is there a word used by Koreans, Salvadorans, or Filipinos to mean someone who's assimilated into another country and left the language and culture of the home country?

The first answer came from Cal Poly Pomona sociologist Mary Yu Danico, a 1.5 generation Korean American and author of The 1.5 Generation: Becoming Korean American in Hawaii:” 

In Korea, they refer to any person of Korean descent in the diaspora at gyopoGyopos, however, do not always leave language and culture behind..

In Hawaii they refer to Japanese Americans born on the mainland as katonk.

Dennis Arguelles, a second-generation Filipino American and director of program development for Search To Involve Pilipino Americans (SIPA), offered this:

My understanding is that there isn't a generic term for like "pocho" for Filipinos, but anyone who's assimilated into American culture, even if they are 1.5, is simply referred to as "Fil Am."


UCLA Chicana/o Studies professor Leisy Abrego, a 1.5 generation Salvadoran American, suggested a term used not only by Salvadorans but also other Latinos:


I asked around and the only thing I got from Salvadorans was "agringado," which translates loosely into "whitewashed."

One Spanish definition describing "agringado" translates roughly as "adopting the look or customs of the gringo, imitating in some way or behaving like one." It's a word I remember hearing from the elders in my family as I was growing up as a 1.5er, becoming Americanized.

Are there other terms like these not listed here? Feel free to post them below.