First Generation is about the pressure, guilt and high expectations set upon children of immigrant families in order to honor their parents’ sacrifices.
Featuring: Iaritza Menjivar
For my cousins, siblings and I, the repetitive message from our parents was always clear, “I sacrificed everything—family, friends and my life—to come to this country. I wanted to give my family back home a better life and my children the life I never had.”
My family immigrated from Central America. They have given us, the first American-born generation, a great life—the life they never had. The abundance of food, clothes and technology our parents earned through hard work is overwhelming when compared to the poor lives they left behind.
As one of the oldest children from the first generation, I culturally grew alongside my parents. At an early age I would help with an array of things: from translating paperwork to helping with all technological tools, such as making a call back home on the new iPhone. Assimilating into the American culture wasn’t easy for them and it has not been easy for us, the first generation, to find our identity in the space between two cultures.
At times I feel like my generation has been forced to accept a sacrifice, one we didn’t choose. I question my own feelings toward the magnanimous sacrifice and wonder if the pressure of being everything my family wasn’t has altered our identity. Now, I confront the expectations set upon us.
Iaritza Menjivar (b. 1992) is a Boston-based photographer, born and raised in Massachusetts. She earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Photography at Lesley University College of Art and Design. Currently, she works at the Griffin Museum of Photography as the assistant director and at Digital Silver Imaging as the social media coordinator. She also does freelance work which includes event photography, photo retouching, and has worked closely with numerous social media platforms for different organizations including Lenscratch and others.
Menjivar’s personal project is about the high expectations set upon her generation by her family and the pressure first generations personally feel to honor their immigrant parents. Her ongoing project, First Generation, was recently featured on The New York Times Lens blog. For this same project, Menjivar was awarded a St Botolph Foundation Emerging Artist Grant in the visual art category. She was also a scholarship recipient for the Seeing Crete: A Photo Diary Workshop in Crete, Greece, part of Maine Media Workshops. Her work has been exhibited in multiple group exhibitions locally and internationally.