The Idea of The “Temporary” Latina

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I found Ruth Behar’s testimonia about her anxieties about being a “temporary” Latina as so relatable and also pertinent to my upcoming paper on the liminality of Latina identity. She said that she never felt comfortable fully self-identifying as Latina because of her light skin and her Jewish heritage. Because of that, she felt that when it came to conversations about expanding the definition for Latino/a, her input wasn’t necessary or productive. I am in a slightly different situation, as I’m only half-Mexican and have only been to Mexico a dozen or so times in order to visit mis abuelos. But still, although I have a heavy ethnic connection to my Mexican roots, there are obvious privileges I┬ámust be fully conscious of. Although I agree with Behar on the notion that the term Latino/a should be expanded in order to unite instead of stratify the community, but at the same time I must recognize that my light skin means that being a dominant voice in discussions would mean speaking over latinx people who have a more nuanced view due to their multifaceted identities that include a more prominent racist and xenophobic experience living in the U.S.

But I cannot deny that I haven’t been singled-out for my Latinidad when it was made apparent. The thing is, even if I am not visibly Latina, once I openly disclose my latinidad it becomes a very real and prominent aspect of the way in which others interact with me. When people see me as a ethnically White woman, I am tenacious, respected and driven, but when I am seen as Latina, I am bossy, over-achieving and possessing an agenda. It’s especially hard when navigating certain academic circles, because focusing on topics of misogyny, xenophobia and racism (especially under our current political climate) is just seen as me being a nuisance and overly-political. Sometimes I feel like it is also seen as if my Latina identity is a performance, and that sometimes my peers and professors would just wish I would embrace my “white side” as a means for them to respect me and my academic pursuits more in lieu of having to treat me differently based on my self-proclaimed Latina ethnicity. This is why I want to continue working towards highlighting the insecurities of Latinas that exist in a state of liminality due to their skin color and language, not so that they become the recipients of pity or the subjects of a discourse of ostracization, but rather so that they (or should I say we) have a more cohesive idea of what our role in the Latinx community is (perhaps bridgework?).

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