Richer Than Mami? Ay, the Guilt!

Rios is part of a growing population of career-driven, successful American-born Latinas. A recent Pew Hispanic Center study found that the adult U.S.-born children of immigrants are better off than their parents in key socioeconomic factors. Among Hispanics, the children of Latino immigrants are better educated, have a higher household income and are more likely to be homeowners than Mami y Papi. In fact, according to this study, the majority of these second-generation Americans say that their own standard of living is much better than their parents’ was at this stage of their lives.

For immigrants, many of whom came to the United States in search of a better future for their children, it seems their goal has been achieved. Through hard work and endless sacrifices, they have attained the American dream vicariously through their daughters. These accomplished Latinas are well aware of the sacrifices made by their immigrant parents. It is often that struggle that fuels their ambition.

“Success can be the woman that comes as an immigrant and doesn’t speak the language, makes money cleaning houses and puts the children through good schools,” says Dr. Carmen Vazquez, cultural psychologist and author of The Maria Paradox: How Latinas Can Merge Old World Traditions With New World Self-Esteem. “That is a successful role model. [These Latinas] put that power into their present world, persevere and become the best. That’s empowering.”

But this success often comes at a price. The shame that consumed Rios is only one of the many side effects of a red-hot career for a Latina. Intense levels of guilt are often experienced for a number of reasons, chief among them the bittersweet feeling of having everything your parents didn’t have.

“It’s heartbreaking,” says Roz Vega Skidmore, a financial services director from Charlotte, N.C, whose father came from Puerto Rico as a teenager and worked his whole adult life as a maintenance worker at a large corporate office. “I’m happy their sacrifice led to this, but at the same time, I know how hard they worked and they couldn’t have it for themselves.” Skidmore, 49, who grew up in the housing projects of Spanish Harlem wearing her cousins’ hand-me-downs, has always had mixed emotions about the luxuries she could afford—indulgences such as once dropping $2,500 on a pair of shoes without blinking.

More on page 3 >>>