I’m Tired of Being “Too White” To Be Latina

I’m white. And I’m Mexican. And those two things shouldn’t be mutually exclusive.  

When people ask me where I’m from, I almost always get this response:

“I never would have guessed!”, “So that’s why your last name is Garcia!” or the ever so popular, “But you’re so white!”

I’d like to think that people don’t intend to be stereotypical when they find out where I’m from. I’d like to think that the surprise in their voice is simply genuine excitement about my racial background, and not a microaggressive comment about how I’m too white to be Latina. 

But that’s just not the truth.

For years, I held onto my naivete, clinging to a childhood where my ethnicity wasn’t questioned by people who “knew better”.

I’ve since learned that the surprise in their voices isn’t because I’m a fascinating person of interest- it’s because I’m a white Mexican woman. (And perhaps the fact that I’m not wearing a sombrero throws them off as well.)

See, I was born in Mexico City- and while I was born to two “white” parents, both are Mexican. 

My father, a Mexican-American from Texas, was working in the U.S. Embassy when he met my mom, who is Mexican. This made me a dual citizen of both the U.S. and Mexico, and I even had a Diplomatic U.S. passport and a Mexican passport to prove it.

I spent the first year and a half of my life in Mexico City, until my father’s job moved him to Texas- more specifically, a border city called Laredo, where the majority of the population was Hispanic. 

Growing up, my mom only spoke to me in Spanish and my father only spoke to me in English. I soon became fluent in both languages. 

I lived in Laredo until I was 5 years old, when my family moved to Northern Virginia for my father’s job. 

My parents enrolled me in a French immersion elementary school in Herndon, where math, science, and health classes were taught exclusively in French.

And while the population of Herndon was also primarily Hispanic, many were from El Salvador, Honduras, or Peru. But most Hispanic students chose not to enroll in the French immersion program.

When I lived in Texas, I constantly spoke Spanish and English with my classmates. But when I got to elementary school, half of my classes were being taught in French and the other half were being taught in English. There was no room for Spanish, nor were there many opportunities to make Hispanic friends while I was in school. 

This led me to befriend my fellow French immersion classmates, otherwise known as the “Frenchies”.

As the years went on, it became even harder to show my Mexican heritage, simply because I didn’t have the chance to prove that I truly was Hispanic. I was considered “white” and that was that.

Courtesy of Author

I could never form meaningful friendships with any of my Hispanic schoolmates, because I was always considered “too white” for them.

And yet, I couldn’t always relate to the “Frenchies”, either. Most of my classmates were white, and the few that weren’t were Asian or Middle Eastern. I felt too Latina to truly fit in with some of my closest friends. 

Once I got to middle school, I wasn’t even considered Hispanic anymore. The cliques from elementary school had evolved and I was now permanently a member of “The Whites”.

And while I was considered “too white” to be Hispanic, I still received anonymous hate messages on my Ask.fm profile: 

“Your hair is an ugly Mexican rats nest”

“All you’ll ever be is a consuela”

“Go back to where you came from”

As a white-passing Latina, I am well aware of the privilege the color of my skin has given me. I can’t imagine the xenophobia and racism my hermanos y hermanas go through in their daily lives, much less their professional lives. And yet, I constantly feel guilty for not “looking” Hispanic enough. 

But at the same time, being a white Latina has its own troubles that most people don’t realize.

The minute I walk into my favorite taco place in Manassas, I’m met with uncomfortable stares. They whisper, probably wondering what the little Gringa (essentially a slur for white people) is doing there. It isn’t until I order my food in fluent Spanish that they realize I’m one of them and their attitude towards me changes (for the most part).

When I go back home to Mexico, many people act surprised when I devour every Mexican dish available, because it’s “surprising that a Gringa would like those flavors”, or that I’m “surprisingly Mexican” for a white girl.

I may feel like an outsider when I’m around white people, but it's nothing compared to the exclusion I feel when I’m around Hispanics. 

I’ve started trying to reconcile with the fact that I’ll never truly fit in with either culture. If anything, I’ve learned to advocate as best I can for Latinos that don’t have the same white-passing privilege as I do.

I also continue to share my love of my Mexican heritage with my white friends by teaching them about our food, our holidays and our customs.

And I will always be proud to be Mexican.