The Effect of Cultural Assimilation on the Importance of Family-Related and Nature-Related Recreation among Hispanic Americans

Article excerpt

This article applies ethnic-assimilation theory to the analysis of differences between and within ethnic groups in the perceived benefits received from outdoor recreation. Specifically, we examine the possible function of outdoor recreation in maintaining at least some core cultural values among Hispanic Americans in the face of countervailing pressures in the U.S. toward cultural assimilation. Using an approach based on the concept of "selective acculturation," Hispanic Americans and Anglo Americans are compared in terms of the relative importance of family togetherness and nature enjoyment as perceived benefits of recreation behavior.(1) The proposition examined is that certain core cultural values may be reflected in at least some of these benefits, causing the two groups to differ significantly in the importance they attach to them (Gramann, Floyd, & Saenz, 1993).

Theoretical Background

Cultural Assimilation

Keefe and Padilla (1987:18) have defined assimilation as the "social, economic, and political integration of an ethnic minority group into mainstream society." Gordon (1964) broke the assimilation process into seven subprocesses: acculturation, or behavioral assimilation; structural assimilation, or access to societal institutions; amalgamation, or marital assimilation; identificational assimilation; attitude receptional assimilation, or the absence of prejudice; behavior receptional assimilation, or the absence of discrimination; and civic assimilation, or the absence of value and power conflicts.

According to Gordon, acculturation (the first subprocess of assimilation) occurs when an ethnic group's cultural patterns change to those of the host society. In the North American context, this process has been labeled "Anglo-conformity" to distinguish it from other models of assimilation, such as the melting-pot metaphor (in which both the host and immigrant culture change) or cultural pluralism (in which ethnic differences are maintained and encouraged within a single political framework) (McLemore, 1991). Although Gordon felt that Anglo-conformity best described the assimilation process of most immigrants to the U.S., subsequent research has shown that assimilation does not always lead to complete replacement of one culture by another (Keefe & Padilla, 1987). A major reason for this is that different parts of a culture are transferred with varying degrees of success and speed (Yinger, 1981). Although material culture is relatively easy to share, the adoption of a host culture's basic values is a slower process and will only be achieved if individuals can find secure and rewarding places within the new culture.

Selective Acculturation

Moore (1976) was one of the first sociologists to argue that Mexican-American assimilation in particular deviates from the pattern of other Hispanic and non-Hispanic immigrant groups in the U.S. According to Moore, although Mexican Americans have been a recognized ethnic group in the United States since the end of the Mexican-American War in 1848, they have not reached the final stage of assimilation that they should have if the Anglo-conformity process accurately described their assimilation experience.

Keefe and Padilla (1987) also have argued that Mexican-American assimilation patterns differ from those described by classic sociological models. These researchers introduced the concept of "selective acculturation" to account for this difference. Selective acculturation describes the retention by an ethnic group of certain core cultural traits, such as family organization, child-rearing practices, and traditional foods and music preferences, while other traits of the majority group that contribute to socioeconomic advancement (such as language) are adopted fairly quickly. In the case of Mexican Americans, selective acculturation may be facilitated by the geographical concentration of this ethnic group, predominantly in the southwestern U. …