I call myself a Minnesota Norteňa.: Becoming Minnesotan

Female silhouette.
  • Name - Martha Castaňon
  • Age at interview - 50
  • Gender - Female
  • Generation - Second Generation American
  • Date of Interview - 02.15.2010
  • The Castaňon children at their confirmation, Sabin, Minnesota, May 1978.


    Gender Roles, Identity, Latino

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    Essential Question

    Becoming Americans: What does it mean to be an American?

    Assimilation: Does a person have to give up part of his/her culture to become more American?

    Words to look for


    Background Information

    Marriage and parenting are highly valued in Latino culture, and the man and woman are expected to play a separate role in the family and in society. Traditionally, the man is the authority figure in the family and earns the money while the woman is devoted to the home and may make sacrifices to care for her children or parents. These strict gender roles cannot always be maintained, especially in the U.S., where families may be separated or women have to work outside the home. Influence from mainstream culture in the U.S. may also lead Latino women to seek more autonomy inside and outside the home.

    To learn more about Latino history and culture, visit our Latino Community page.

    • Chapter 1

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    Narrator: Martha Castaňon (MC)

    Interviewer: Abner Arauza (AA)

    AA: Do you feel connected to south Texas Mexicano culture or do you feel connected to the Minnesota Mexicano culture? [Chuckles]

    MC: That’s a good question, Abner.

    You know, I call myself a Minnesota Norteňa. Because some of my thinking is more Minnesota based than Texas based. The one thing that I miss about Texas is being able to get the local news in Spanish, you know, see the local news. Turning on the radio and there’s Tejano music playing. Now, I get that through my computer, which is kind of nice. Having a good taqueria.

    I was just in Minneapolis this past weekend. And I didn’t have much of a chance to get together with my son, Victor. And Victor caught me right when I was leaving my other son’s house. And he says, “Well, Mom, can we just meet for a quick, you know, early lunch, late breakfast?” And he says, “There’s a taqueria called El Taco Riendo, on Central [Avenue]. And so we met there, and I keep saying, you know, we need something like this in the Fargo/Moorhead area, just a little taqueria they can run in and get your tacos, you know.

    AA: Yeah.

    MC: But the way that I think, and I’ve been told by some of my friends in Texas that my way of thinking is different. “You’re different. You don’t think like we do.” And my sisters and I, we’ve had discussions on how would we have turned out if we had grown up in Texas? Would we have been different? Because our way of thinking is, it’s a much more open mind, more accepting of other cultures and people. We’re probably more liberal in how we grew up, and we got this also from Mom and Dad.

    I’ll never forget years ago when I was in high school, we had some relatives from Texas. My cousin’s wife, she was very traditional, very, very traditional. She would serve her husband first, and then the kids. And it would surprise her that we would serve ourselves our own plate of food. And she didn’t, she would serve her kids. You know, she commented this to my mom. My mom said, “You know, they’re old enough to serve themselves. They need to learn how to serve themselves.” Because, she said, “Why should I serve them when I’m not sure how much they want to eat?”

    Another thing is - and I see this in some of my cousins, they’re very, very traditional – that they won’t go anywhere without asking permission first. And my sisters and I, we don’t do that. Just, “I’ve got to go to the store. See ya!” You know? [Laughter] We’re not going to ask for permission, you know. Maybe we would have done that if we were still at home and with Mom and Dad and were still teenagers. Yeah, we would ask Dad and Mom for permission. But all of us in our relationships, we didn’t do that. It surprises me sometimes when I hear some women say, you know, “Tengo que pedirle permiso a mi esposo; I’ve got to ask for permission.” I’m like, “Why do you need to ask for permission?” You know? [Laughter]

    So I see that we’re a little bit more liberal, more open-minded about things. I don’t know, it’s just, I guess, how we grew up.

    Related Glossary Terms


    Noun:  The arts, customs, and habits that characterize a particular society or nation.


    Adjective: Open to political or social changes and reforms in favor of increased freedom or democracy.


    Noun: Spanish word meaning woman northerner.


    Noun: A restaurant specializing in tacos and other Mexican food.


    Noun: A Texan of Mexican descent.


    Minnesota Historical Society. Becoming Minnesotan: Stories of Recent Immigrants and Refugees. September 2010. Institute of Museum and Library Services. [Date of access]. http://www.mnhs.org/immigration
    nid: 2181