Latina Legacies

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I never used to consider myself latina, but  I never got quite used to calling myself white, either. Growing up I often wouldn’t need to declare my ethnicity, for upon introducing myself to someone they would usually look me over and say “So, what are you?”

The “ethnicity question” is often too intriguing to ignore, for not one of my features is apparently easy to place on a map, so to speak. I’ve rehearsed over the course of my life to respond “My dad is Irish,” only to pause for a second to observe the raised brow of whoever I’m talking to. “…And my mom is Mexican,” I’d finish. They’d nod and say “Oh, how interesting/exotic/!” And I’d smile and give a wry chuckle.

I always perceived myself as such a mismatched physical being. I never liked how my knotty, curly hair was impossible to control and how my skin deepened into an olive-brown during the summer months. As a teenager I would straighten my hair every day and went through bouts of dyeing it red, purple, pitch black–anything to distance myself from my Mexican features.

Looking back on it, I always wanted to eliminate the aspects of myself that gave away a sense of racial ambiguity. I wanted to be a stick-thin blondie with pin-straight hair like the popular girls at school. I wished my eyes were blue like my father’s.

Like Latina Legacies pointed out, there are various identities that fall under the “latina” umbrella label. Through my own personal journey of grappling with my desire to be white and my longing to connect with my mother’s heritage has allowed me to come to a concise label for myself.

I am a latina woman, without a doubt. But I think it is important to assert that I’m a white latina because of the fact that I can so easily pass for white, even if somewhat ethnically ambiguous. There is no doubt I continue to experience privilege on behalf of that and I choose to own up to it.

But this does not negate my latina experience. My journey in learning Spanish and studying the sociopolitical aspects of Latina America and the Caribbean are some of the ways in which I am educating myself academically, while cultural education comes out of visiting my family in Mexico (which may be more difficult in these dire political times).

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