I’m sure you’ve seen those pictures of an animal with a group of a different species and they begin to think they’re that species? Like a cat raised by dogs learns to roll over, but forgets how to always land on its feet? That’s how I feel when people look at me. A white boy from a Mexican town.
I was born and raised in the southernmost region of the United States in the Rio Grande Valley, Texas. The RGV is four counties at the bottom tip of Texas, right next to Mexico and the Gulf of Mexico with the Rio Grande River as the only thing separating us from actually being in Mexico. Aside from that, Falfurrias is probably a more accurate border. We are submerged in our culture and understand that we live in America, but Mexico lives in us. I always joked to my friends in college that I could cross the border get a torta and be back in an hour for dinner—no problem. This was my home. Tamales and barbacoa on Sundays and holidays by my abuelos.
All I had ever been convinced of was that I am not really Latino, for example, have you ever seen the movie "Selena?" Hopefully you have. Selena was a Mexican-American musician from Corpus Christi (where her statue stands tall) who revolutionized the music industry paving a way for the Latino community to make mainstream news. One of my favorite parts of the movie is when Selena’s dad is explaining the struggle of a Mexican-American in south Texas. “We gotta be more Mexican than the Mexicans and more American than the Americans, both at the same time. It’s exhausting!” And it is!
Sometimes I forget the English word for something very simple and struggle for awhile before managing to say the correct word. All while trying to remember to sound "American," which fails and my accent will come out very pronounced. “Wow, you sounded really Mexican.” Because I am! Or the worst I have heard: “Can you like just pick one accent?”
Can you, like, stop?
When my brother and I were little, my mother never really spoke her main language around the house because we had to speak "good" English to get "good" jobs and not have to work in the fields the way her family had to. We had to have the white name and the white looks to become doctors, lawyers or politicians because those jobs were reserved for white people, right? Wrong, but that was my mom’s fear. A friend once called me “white-passing.” Because I’m “white-passing,” I have more opportunity, right? I’m a “white-passing” Latino and that is what I should be thankful for, right? I should be thankful for being able to step on my community and climb my way to the top because of the color of my skin? I thought we had come farther than the stories my mom would tell us as children. This entire time you might have looked at this as crying for being privileged, but how would you feel if someone invalidated your culture and everything you are?
Everything about you is valid.
I am 1/4 German, 3/4 Mexican, and 100 percent Latino.
I am me.