Things That Get Old Quickly When You’re a White-Looking Hispanic

What does a white-looking Hispanic look like? What I’m referring to is a person who has Hispanic background but has light skin and may often be mistaken for a Caucasian person.

I’ve taken several surveys that have asked, “Are you Hispanic or Latinx?” I check the box. Then I’m asked, “Please select what applies to you:” and I scroll past Caucasian, Asian, Pacific Islander, African descent, Alaskan Native, and so on until I reach “Other” or “Choose not to specify.” I don’t identify with any of these and I’ve never been told what to answer anyway. Sometimes Hispanic is an option instead of being separated but, more often than not, I have to pick “Other.”

That’s just one of the many things I struggle with and it’s really not a huge deal to me. It’s bothersome, yes, but I get over it rather quickly (at least until the next survey). It’s not even something I deal with daily. However, there are a lot of things that I have endured more often!

You may have figured out that I am indeed one of those light-skinned Hispanic girls. My dad is straight from Mexico and my mom’s parents are also Latinx. My younger sister is darker than I am and I got lucky enough to stick out with a bit of paleness. I’ve been reassured from some that “you can tell you’re Hispanic from your eyes/hair/some other small thing” but even close friends jokingly ask if I was picked up by the wrong parents at the hospital as an infant. I’ve shown them pictures of other light-colored relatives — I have a mix of cousins of different shapes, sizes, and colors — but even sometimes I’m curious as to why there’s such a variety.

The stereotype is that your average Latina is any shade of brown but not too brown or too white. They’re also curly-haired, with those long wavy locks of brown or black streaming past their shoulders. They might have big chocolate-colored eyes, freckles, an accent, and a love of dancing. The one trait everyone likes to either ignore (because they only picture gorgeous Shakira-looking women) or make fun of (because they are immature and love pointing out people’s flaws) is the dark, noticeable body hair. It may not be universal across all Latinx people but, again, the stereotype includes Latinas with hair above the lip and easily seen leg, arm, or armpit hair; if anyone shaves or waxes rapidly, it might be them. There is no standard Latinx person and we all need to start moving past the stereotypes and accept each other as people, not as people we can rank in race. No one should be considered more White/Black/Asian/etc. than someone else.

That being said, when I’m not being questioned about my “real parents” or my race, something smaller but constant bothers me: the mispronunciation of my name. Every new class role call makes me nervous. In high school I knew everyone or almost everyone in my classes so I picked up on last names to figure out how close the teacher was to my name. In college I’m lucky if I know one person in my class, luckier still if I can remember their last name. I can no longer tell if the teacher is five names away or twenty names away from my own and my name always comes out, “An-jell-ick-uh?” to which I reply, “An-hell-ick-uh.” Then, if the class is noisy or I’m too far away for the teacher to hear me, I must repeat it. They write a note to themselves and they move on. Two days later I wonder, “Will they forget my name already? Do I have to go through this again?” It’s a coin flip depending on how familiar the professor is with non-traditional names, their own origin, or how good their memory is. I have the same issue with students but it’s usually because they won’t be around for long. Meeting someone at a Brew table isn’t normally as significant as meeting someone in a club you meet with weekly. Even in classes fellow students won’t remember my name no matter how often I get called on or who is speaking to me and using my name correctly. I’m currently on an in-class team in which I’m unsure who, out of the four other people, really know how to say my name. When someone says my name to get my attention I find that it might sound rude if I responded with my correct pronunciation instead of, “What?” On the other hand, it’s so frustrating hearing my professor and friends always say it correctly while my teammates get it wrong every day.

There are other things I, and others who can relate, get tired of very quickly. When a Latinx person doesn’t like spicy food, peppers, cilantro, mariachi, dancing, or hot weather, we might get questioned by a peer with something like, “Whaaaaat? You’re [insert nationality here] but you don’t like [insert thing we’re apparently supposed to like here]?” First, no, I’ve never lived in Mexico so I’m still American. Second, yeah, I don’t like the thing but that doesn’t make my heritage invalid. If you’re of German descent do you have to love Jägermeister? If you’re of Irish descent do you have to love step dancing? It’s a silly concept and just another thing we need to get past. It’s great to embrace your heritage and to admire the ones around you but it’s not a competition and I’d appreciate it if we could respect each other’s traits while realizing we’re not in a contest.

Hero photo from Dangene website [link], article photo taken of/by myself