Being a first generation Mexican-American in Los Angeles has had its struggles. My mom and dad immigrated here a little more than twenty years ago. They didn't know each other when they came to the US. They individually came here in hopes of the better life that America promised and was looking for a way to make more money in order to help their poverty-stricken families back home, in Mexico. They left everything, including their parents and siblings in order to find a better life for themselves but also for those they loved. They met each other here in Los Angeles and eventually had my sister and me.
My whole life I've experienced this paradox, where I know I'm Mexican but I don't exactly portray the role or at least the stereotype. I've grown up in the San Fernando Valley and gone to school in ethnically diverse environments. I've learned about different cultures and ways of being and they have influenced the way I live my life. And not everything I do fits a certain mold. And I don't fit the mold of a Mexican to even Latinos around me.
Since my mom and dad came without family in this country my sister and I didn't grow up with a huge Mexican family, which seems to be a stereotype. We didn't throw huge parties every Christmas or Thanksgiving. We didn't learn how to dance cumbia or bachata. It was just the four of us during the holidays, and I loved it.
While growing up I experienced many moments where I realized the disconnect between my culture and I. When I started going to Quinceaneras, I didn't know how to dance and I felt so ashamed because everyone else could. I was never taught. And I felt like that somehow made me a 'bad Mexican,' because it was such an integral part of the culture.
When my sister and I went to Oaxaca, Mexico for the first time to visit my extended family, everything was so different. We had so many cousins, uncles, and so many family members and I finally was able to understand the love and joy that comes from having a huge family. So even though I have my nuclear family at home, I also know my extended family is always there to support us even across the country. It's kind of awesome.
During this trip, I would sometimes forget words in Spanish or have a trouble explaining myself and I felt so judged. The slang they used was so different from the Spanish I learned in my household. Up until that point the only people I had spoken Spanish to my whole life had been my mom and my dad, and honestly, they had done a great job getting us to learn Spanish fluently.
We would go eat traditional Mexican food and sometimes wasn't familiar with a dish because I had never seen it or even heard of it. I don't love spicy food and honestly can't handle it as well as other people, so that also made me feel 'not as Mexican.'
I speak English and feel more comfortable with it because for most of my life it was the dominant language. I love foods other than Mexican food and am glad I even have the opportunity to get to see into so many different cultures with the diversity around me. Then again, I also am fluent in Spanish and love my culture. The Oaxacan dishes or spicy and sweet candy don't always appeal to others but to me its the best thing ever.
Even though being Mexican-American has been conflicting at times and growing up I didn't really know where I belonged, I wouldn't have it any other. To me, it's become like the best of both worlds.
Just because I don't fit the traditional roles of what a 'Mexican' is, doesn't mean I'm not. I'm different, I grew up in a different culture with a different lifestyle than my parents or even my family back in Mexico and that's okay. I know my roots and I am proud of them, even though I don't fit the stereotypes or molds of what people expect. I know who I am and I am a proud Mexican-American.