Essay Sample on Shifting Cultural Identities in Mexican-American Arts

Published: 2023-09-13
Essay Sample on Shifting Cultural Identities in Mexican-American Arts
Essay type:  Compare and contrast
Categories:  Culture Movie Essays by wordcount
Pages: 4
Wordcount: 1075 words
9 min read

The films La Bamba (1987), Bless Me, Ultima (2013), and Zoot Suit (1981) reflect the developing cultural identities among Chicanos or Mexican-Americans. The first movie, La Bamba, was written and directed by Valdez Luis. The producer of this American biographical film is Borden Bill. La Bamba’s main characters are Ritchie Valens, Bob Keane, Buddy Holly, Rosie Morales, and Donna Ludwig. The second movie, Bless Me, Ultima, is an American drama film that features a young boy's life in search of his cultural identity. The producer of this movie is Beaton Jesse, while the director is Franklin Carl. The main characters in this film are Ultima, Antonio, Tenorio, Gabriel, and Maria. The third movie, Zoot Suit, covers Mexican-Americans' revolt, following the detention of a group of boys for committing murder. Zoot Suit’s director is Valdez Luis, while the producer is Peter Burrell. The film’s main characters are George Shearer, Henry Reyna, Dell, and El Pachuco. The three American films represent significant changes in Chicano’s cultural identities because they show a shift from masculine, violent, culturally deficient Mexican-Americans to people tolerant of conflicting traditions.

Trust banner

Is your time best spent reading someone else’s essay? Get a 100% original essay FROM A CERTIFIED WRITER!

La Bamba (1987)

In this movie, Valens Ritchie portrays essential aspects that underpin cultural identity among Mexican-Americans. This character was a talented musician and one of the most famous artists in the Rock "N" business (Valdez 00:01:05– 00:01:15). The real name of this musician was Valenzuela Richard, but in the stage, he introduced himself as 'Valens Ritchie.’ The circumstances that led to the change of name is of great importance in analyzing the identity of Chicano people. In this regard, a music producer told Valenzuela to change his name to 'Valens Ritchie,' or else American artists would not recognize him in the stage. This phenomenon implies that race and ethnicity are among the core cultural constraints that affect Chicanos' identity. In another scene, Ritchie met a White girl called Donna in school. The two students were close friends who walked home together after school. However, Donna’s father was unhappy with the friendship between her daughter and Ritchie, despite being in the same class. He bought a car for Donna to stop her from walking home with Ritchie. This aspect suggests that the Chicano's perception as an inferior culture adversely impacted their cultural identity. This point connects to ideas in class readings that one's class, race, ancestry, religion, and political attitudes influence cultural identities (Katzew and Deans-Smith 51).

Bless Me, Ultima (2013)

Ultima portrays essential developments in the cultural identity of the Chicano community. This character is a traditional healer who believes in both catholic and indigenous traditions (Jesse 00:04:02– 00:05:10). She attends mass regularly and respects the Christian community's wisdom concerning morality and other social aspects. In this film, Ultima played an essential role in Antonio's life by teaching him to be tolerant of different cultures. In this regard, Ultima believed in the importance of viewing traditions and religion in equally valid ways. This character appreciates the perspectives of people from different cultures and faiths. Also, she strives to instill tolerance to his close friend Antonio. Because of this determination, Ultima, helped Antonio and other characters to reconcile conflicting cultural traditions. Accordingly, Ultima represents Chicanos, who relate well with other people to promote harmony. Ultima encourages tolerance to different cultural traditions as a way to promote peaceful coexistence. From the interaction between Ultima and Anaya, the audience knows that Ultima deconstructs a wrong belief that Mexican-Americans are intolerant to people from other cultures.

Zoot Suit (1981)

Actions of El Pachuco reflect essential developments in the history of Chicano’s cultural identity. This character is not concerned with the morals of Mexican-Americans but instead protecting their identity. He believes that their home city was unfair to Chicanos, who were seen as criminals and immoral people. This belief connects to the idea that Latin American films portray Chicano men as violent and aggressive (Medina-Rivera 82). Pachuco warned Henry and other Mexican Americans, from representing the US in World War II, because the country did not care about them. He believed that Chicanos had a war to fight at home, and his community should forget about foreign battles. In a night party that brought together street gangs, Pachuco played a leading role in resolving Chicanos' conflicts (Burrell 00:09:00– 00:01:16). This character deconstructs the depiction of Chicano youths as gangsters and the causes of social problems. This idea relates to a point in the class reading that the dominant culture portrays Chicanos as morally pathological, violent, and culturally deficient people (Fregoso 59).

Comparison of Cultural Identities

The three characters show how Chicanos have undergone cultural identity transformation in the US. The race factor is salient to the cultural identity of the three characters. In this view, Pachuco, Ritchie, and Ultima have a collective identity because they share a common heritage as Chicanos. The three films show a shift in the portrayal of Chicanos from a deficient and violent culture to a group of people tolerant of conflicting traditions. Pachuco is fighting for the identification of his community by shaping the behaviors of Mexican-American gangsters. In the second film, Ultima represents Chicanos as culturally-tolerant people. Gender shapes Ultima's cultural identity, while the race component is vital to Pachuco and Ritchie's sense of belonging. Besides, Pachuco and Ritchie represent an idea that men dominate over women. This aspect of cultural identity is different in the film Bless Me, Ultima, where Ultima and other women have different cultural expectations. Specifically, Ultima is the carrier of Chicano ethnic traditions and represents a significant change in gender roles. Cultural prejudice limits the cultural identity of Ritchie and Pachuco, whereas Ultima looks beyond these assumptions.


The three films show essential changes that shape the present-day cultural identity of Chicanos. The community has evolved from a masculine culture that the dominant society recognized for being violent and intolerant to conflicting traditions. These movies also show a change from a group fighting for cultural identity to a culture that asserts pride for its traditions.

Works Cited

Bless Me, Ultima. Directed by Beaton Jesse, 2013. Artisan Entertainment, 2013.

Fregoso, Rosa L. "The Representation of Cultural Identity in Zoot Suit (1981)." Theory and Society, vol. 22, no. 5, 1993, pp. 659-674, Accessed 26 June 2020.

Katzew, Ilona, and Susan Deans-Smith. Race and Classification: The Case of Mexican America. Stanford UP, 2009.

La Bamba. Directed by Luis Valdez, 1987. Warner Bros., 1987.

Medina-Rivera, Antonio. "Male Representation in Latin American Film and Soap Operas." Hispanic Journal (2002): 75-87. Accessed 26 June 2020.

Zoot Suit. Produced by Peter Burrell, 1981. Universal Pictures, 1981.

Cite this page

Essay Sample on Shifting Cultural Identities in Mexican-American Arts. (2023, Sep 13). Retrieved from

Request Removal

If you are the original author of this essay and no longer wish to have it published on the SpeedyPaper website, please click below to request its removal:

Liked this essay sample but need an original one?

Hire a professional with VAST experience!

24/7 online support

NO plagiarism