The Struggles Of Being A Light-Skinned, Mixed-Race Latina

The Struggles Of Being A Light-Skinned, Mixed-Race Latina

"You don't even look Mexican at all!"
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I have always struggled with my racial and cultural identity.

Coming from a Mexican-American household, especially in today's political climate, my issues with racial and cultural identity continually multiply. For those of you who know me, you'll know I'm half Mexican and half American (with German heritage). But for those of you who don't, I already know what you think of me.

You think I'm white.

My father was born and raised on a ranch in Palmar Chico, Mexico. He emigrated to the United States when he was only 15 years old. He worked as a busboy, then a dishwasher, and then a cook at a greasy spoon diner in Chicago, which is where he met my mother. They got married, and I am the result of said marriage.

When I was an infant, I had a more stereotypical Latina "look" to me. I had dark brown hair and dark eyes. Within three years, my hair and eyes lightened and my skin grew out of its redness into a more ivory tone. Since then, I've always had mid-to-light brown hair and light olive green eyes. I've been able to "pass" as white all my life.

But that isn't something that should be celebrated.

Though some people envy the fact that mixed-race children can fall into one of two categories at any given time, (one of those categories often being white), telling someone that they "look white" or "don't look Hispanic" is the definition of erasure, and is significantly more harmful than people make it seem.

You are erasing that individual's racial and cultural background with your dismissal of their identities.

Even the most so-called respectful people do this. Without thinking, they might say something innocent-sounding like, "Oh, you're Irish, right?" or "You don't even look Mexican at all!" and while they may have the best of intentions, their assumptions help perpetuate a cycle of dismissive language and misconceptions about how individuals from certain racial and cultural backgrounds should look and behave.

Racial and cultural dismissal comes from both non-Latinos and Latinos alike.

Being so surprised and telling someone you "can't believe [they're] Hispanic or Latina!" isn't a compliment. It's a subtle, backhanded slap to the face. This type of thinking becomes toxic, especially when a mixed-race person tries to adhere to their cultural traditions, such as dress, hairstyles, cuisine, and media.

For instance, if you don't look a certain, stereotypical way, you get ousted as not being a real Latina.

In 8th grade, my best friend's sister styled my hair in flat twists for our 8th grade luncheon (which was the big style for pre-teens in the late 2000s). Growing up, my aunts would always fix my hair in flat twists because it was a simple way to style long, wavy hair in an elegant manner. To this day, all of my younger Mexican cousins wear their hair in this style. Flat twists have stood the test of time.

Though my friend and I had the same hairstyle at the luncheon, a fellow classmate took the liberty of writing in my yearbook: "You can't wear your hair like that. You're not P.R." (Puerto Rican). Her snide comment about my hair was a blatant implication was that I wasn't Latina enough to wear my hair in that style.

What was more "Latina" than a last name like Reynoso and a father born in Mexico?

Though this is only one isolated instance of dismissing a mixed-race child's ability to adhere to their culture through style, it's an instance that has stuck with me for over nine years.

It has also been difficult to build stronger relationships with my relatives due to a stark language barrier. My lack of ability to speak Spanish is yet another target for the argument that I'm not a true Latina.

The majority of my dad's side of the family doesn't speak English, and after six years of in-school instruction, I still cannot speak Spanish fluently. My dad never taught me how to speak his native tongue, and though I could mull his reasoning over until the day I die, the fact of the matter is: not learning Spanish fluently when I was a child proved to be a detriment.

When I was younger than six, speaking Spanish with my relatives came rather naturally for me.

Since I spent a significant amount of time with my aunts and cousins who would speak Spanish to me, I could respond to and converse with them without ever giving the language nor my cultural identity a second thought. I was cognizant of the fact that I didn't look like my other cousins or aunts, but that never fazed me; at least I knew we could communicate.

As I matured, I recognized instances where, if I went out with my aunts, people (including distant relatives) would look at me and make comments about the gringa standing next to them.

I knew they were talking about me.

Though I couldn't speak Spanish fluently, I understood enough to know when someone was making comments about me. Even then I knew that something about my skin separated me from the rest of my family members.

But I never understood why.

With age, I noticed the same looks and murmurs continued to happen at family get-togethers and school events.

Second and third cousins who had never met me assumed I was a friend of the family at backyard bar-be-cues and quinceañeras. Until they met my father, of course. And when I went to a predominantly white, Catholic grammar school as a child, when my dad attended special events, people would rudely and openly ask my mom if my dad was my REAL dad or if he was my stepfather. It was too hard for them to believe that mixed marriages exist and that the result of a mixed marriage would obviously be a mixed child. Shocking.

Though I've come to a point where I've accepted the fact that I will perpetually be known as the güera of my family, I refuse to accept the dismissal that comes with this title.

I wish I could speak Spanish fluently. I wish I could say I've visited the homeland. I wish people didn't question my ethnicity so boldly and brazenly. But I can't change how people think.

Not all Latinas look the same, speak the same language, or come from the same background. And that's OKAY!

I love my family, my culture, and my identity.

That includes the way I look, the broken Spanish I sometimes speak, and my infatuation with traditional food. Despite the color of my skin, eyes, or hair, these things cannot erase the fact that I am half Mexican and want to be regarded as such.

I celebrate Nochebuena with my family and eat tamales verdes and mole like a champ. I can't wrap my head around soccer, but I'll cheer along while ranchera music plays loudly durante el verano en el patio trasero de mi tía y tío while someone's birthday celebration takes place. (Don't forget to shove their face in the cake!)

I shouldn't have to justify or prove my culture and heritage to those who question it, nor should anyone who comes from a mixed-race household. However, living in a society of inquirers, the sad fact is this: proving ourselves to everyone we meet is an exhausting task that we will never escape.

Cover Image Credit: Rebecca Reynoso

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I'm The Girl Without A 'Friend Group'

And here's why I'm OK with it

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Little things remind me all the time.

For example, I'll be sitting in the lounge with the people on my floor, just talking about how everyone's days went. Someone will turn to someone else and ask something along the lines of, "When are we going to so-and-so's place tonight?" Sometimes it'll even be, "Are you ready to go to so-and-so's place now? Okay, we'll see you later, Taylor!"

It's little things like that, little things that remind me I don't have a "friend group." And it's been like that forever. I don't have the same people to keep me company 24 hours of the day, the same people to do absolutely everything with, and the same people to cling to like glue. I don't have a whole cast of characters to entertain me and care for me and support me. Sometimes, especially when it feels obvious to me, not having a "friend group" makes me feel like a waste of space. If I don't have more friends than I can count, what's the point in trying to make friends at all?

I can tell you that there is a point. As a matter of fact, just because I don't have a close-knit clique doesn't mean I don't have any friends. The friends I have come from all different walks of life, some are from my town back home and some are from across the country. I've known some of my friends for years, and others I've only known for a few months. It doesn't really matter where they come from, though. What matters is that the friends I have all entertain me, care for me, and support me. Just because I'm not in that "friend group" with all of them together doesn't mean that we can't be friends to each other.

Still, I hate avoiding sticking myself in a box, and I'm not afraid to seek out friendships. I've noticed that a lot of the people I see who consider themselves to be in a "friend group" don't really venture outside the pack very often. I've never had a pack to venture outside of, so I don't mind reaching out to new people whenever.

I'm not going to lie, when I hear people talking about all the fun they're going to have with their "friend group" over the weekend, part of me wishes I could be included in something like that. I do sometimes want to have the personality type that allows me to mesh perfectly into a clique. I couldn't tell you what it is about me, but there is some part of me that just happens to function better one-on-one with people.

I hated it all my life up until very recently, and that's because I've finally learned that not having a "friend group" is never going to be the same as not having friends.

SEE ALSO: To The Girls Who Float Between Friend Groups

Cover Image Credit: wordpress.com

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Dear Marvel, You Really Need TO Do Better With Representation

This is simply a poor attempt at more diversity.

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SPOILER WARNING: This article contains spoilers for the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Avengers "Endgame" hit theaters and shattered records across the world with making an amazing $350 million in North America and an even more stunning $1.2 billion worldwide. In fact, 'Endgame' has already destroyed records set back "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," "Avatar," and even the first part of the movie, 'Infinity War.' Fans went in expecting a mix of emotions and for the most part, the movie definitely delivered. However, there is one thing that some fans are severely disappointed in.

Directors like the Russo Brothers hyped up an "exclusive gay character" and "Marvel's first openly gay character" in the 22 movie franchise. But fans weren't happy with what they received after all of this hype beforehand. While representation is representation sometimes it's simply not good enough. In this movie, Steve Rogers (Captain America) goes to a counseling group with others to deal with such a huge loss in their world and lives. This is where we meet the "exclusive" gay character, who barely even has a name. He's an unnoticeable character if you're not paying attention, has no relevance to the plot, and doesn't make any kind of difference in the movie at all. He talks about how he finally went out on a date, with a guy, and how eventually they both cry while reflecting on their lives after the snap. While they call this "exclusive," we call this pretty close to queerbaiting.

Making a big deal over a background character and parading him around for his sexuality isn't what we would call representation. While it's always cool to see an LGBTQ character on the screen in such a huge series, this character is still just a minor character and has no relevance and is literally never seen again. He is on screen for less than five minutes before we never see this character again. This is what you call representation? A minor background character with no importance whatsoever? No thanks!

What we are looking for is at least someone that has something to do with the plot, not just there to say they've done it and market to the LGBTQ community. Marvel needs to do better when it comes to this. Their big deal over a minor character lost our respect more than it gained because this excitement was only a money grab more than an actual attempt at diversity. When we have characters like Valkyrie, who is Bisexual in the comics, we want to see more major characters gain this diversity. Even Captain Marvel actress Brie Larson agrees, "we gotta move faster" as no person should be excluded from being a superhero for any reason, even sexual orientation.

So Marvel, while you're here breaking box office records, don't forget to do better at giving the LGBTQ community the representation they deserve, and the representation we all want! And until you do, we'll just be here looking over Brie Larson's and Bev Johnson's support of Captain Marvel and Valkyrie!

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