Living between two worlds and not belonging in either. Not being ‘Mexican’ enough, but not ‘American’ enough either. Neither sides claim me, so I sit in the middle attempting to change myself for what seems to be for the better of society. Yet, here I am, 19 years old, and still not belonging to either. What did 5-year-old me do wrong? Why couldn’t 10-year-old me have acted more American? Why couldn’t 15-year-old me comfortably speak Spanish at school? People may think I’m being ungrateful for not appreciating the opportunities my parents sacrificed to give me, but I am. The concept that I’m being ungrateful is society and its limited lens on people like me.
I was listening to a podcast, Unbreakable Latina, and the host described a recent experience where she was labeled as a “Spicy Latina”. A compliment right? Not at all. When she questioned the guy about what exactly is a “Spicy Latina”, he ended the conversation. These stereotypes, these labels, and nicknames are all supposed to uplift the perception of Latinas, but they are all so off. Yes, some of us may identify and enjoy following these lifestyles, but not all of us.
Being asked, ‘Where are you from?’, and knowing in that second they mean ‘Where did your parents come from?’. The little dance they perform to prevent them from directly asking if my parents or I am undocumented. At times, I dance around the question myself, leading many of them to realize how incredibly rude the insinuation is. Others? They continue to be ignorant.
Don’t get me wrong, I am in love with my culture. More than the ‘Hispanic Girl’ aesthetic, there are aspects of my culture people just wouldn’t understand. And honestly, I love that. But of course, come the people who seem to do nothing but the definition of cultural appropriation. They don’t even see the issue of what they are doing and believe they are just following a trend or aesthetic.
My skin color is another character that seems to be lost in its identity. It’s a shade not often seen in either American or Mexican people. Yet, my body hair seems to have gone full Mexican. I remember growing up being ashamed of my arm hair. Girls used to call me a werewolf for having long arm hair and literally laughed right at me. For a couple of years, I forced myself to wear long sleeve shirts or even sweaters in hot weather to cover up my arms. My classmates and friends used to question me why I wouldn’t just shave my arm hair, but even back then I saw it as a staple of my culture. Sure, the comments and laughs shoved me to the bottom of my self-esteem, but I knew my ancestors had the same feature and it made me prouder than ever.
Even today I continue to stumble between the line of my Mexican and American identities. You may be thinking, why not just combine the two? And I would, but I think I need to find my own definition and identity. Figure out why I never could fit in either of the groups.
Who knows, maybe I’m destined to walk the tightrope between the two worlds forever.
“No Matter who you are, where you’re from, your skin color, your gender identity, just speak for yourself.” -Kim Namjoon
My Queens, Royal Theys, and Kings,
I hope you find yourself,
And speak for yourself.