North Texas Daily

The struggle of maintaining racial identity

The struggle of maintaining racial identity

The struggle of maintaining racial identity
February 28
00:57 2017

As a requirement for my major, I have to take two semesters of Spanish. I didn’t have the confidence to test out of Spanish, but also didn’t feel it was necessary for me to take two semesters of it to begin with.

Fortunately, I was able to find a happy medium, and I am currently taking a Review of Elementary Spanish course. This course isn’t for Spanish experts, but for those of us who have some experience in Spanish – whether it be in high school or through personal experiences.

It’s reasonable for my knowledge on the language, but this middle ground is also metaphorical for how I feel about my Hispanic identity. I am stuck in between. No offense to my professor – she’s an angel – but some days, I feel so humiliated learning Spanish from a white woman. I should know more. I feel like I know more. At the least, I know she will never understand what it is like to be Hispanic and have grown up in that culture, but then I also wonder if I even know.

According to a study conducted last year by the Pew Research Center, 58 percent of immigrant Hispanics say speaking Spanish isn’t a necessary component of Latino identity, as well as 87 percent of U.S.-born Hispanics.

Despite the statistics, I don’t know if I’ll ever feel enough. I grew up in San Antonio where about 63.8 percent of the population is Hispanic. Moreover, about 57.2 percent of San Antonio is specifically Mexican. Even though my family is from a Mexican background, I don’t feel allowed to call myself Mexican.

First off, I wasn’t born in Mexico, and I also don’t look typically Mexican. Growing up I was always called “güera,” which is a Spanish slang term for white girls. That’s different from being called a “gringa,” which isn’t much nice either.

In many Hispanic-American homes, it goes one of two ways. Either your family teaches you Spanish because they don’t want you to lose your culture, or they enforce English because it is more advantageous in America.

My mother was forced the latter, but is still fluent in Spanish. I never get a straight answer as to why my mom didn’t teach us, but I think it’s because she didn’t believe we needed it to identify with our culture. Everyone around us was Mexican. We lived in it, so we didn’t need to prove anything.

I don’t think language is the most important aspect of living, but I do feel left out of the cultural connection that comes with it. I hate being able to only catch bits and pieces of my friend’s conversations in Spanish. I hate being confused in Spanish class. I hate not feeling a connection to white people as much as I do with Hispanics, but somehow still feeling not enough. I hate not knowing whether my input is valuable on topics about Hispanic or minority issues.

I had culture shock when I moved to Denton, but I got over it. People either assume I’m white, or they know I’m Hispanic. It just depends on what mannerisms of mine that come from each culture they pick up on first. My brother is significantly darker than me and still notes how uncomfortable he is when he visits me. Most of it is joking, but I do wonder what it feels like to be that visible in a room, because I have never known.

I know I’ll always be safe, but I hurt for all the people I’ve met in my life who are illegally here. I’m not mad that I can’t feel their pain, and I know the privilege I have, but I wonder if I even have the right to ever speak for them.

I eat tamales and menudo for the holidays, but I don’t celebrate Día de los Muertos or Cinco de Mayo. I believe in a God, but I’m not a faithful Catholic. I get made fun of for the way I talk by Hispanics, but praised for my accent whenever I do speak any Spanish. I want my children to be bilingual, but I am not.

I’ve always vouched for the right to define your Hispanic identity because it is such a large group of people, but still struggle to find my own personal definition. I know it is the variety and differences that make America’s fabric unique, so I truly hope one day I can feel conviction and comfort in my identity.

About Author

Tori Falcon

Tori Falcon

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