Mexican American Identity
Americanized, thinned paint on my dirty skin. | Ashley Brimmage/THE CHIMES
In the life of a third generation descendant of immigrants from Mexico, a disconnect exists between culture and language within the pulse of family. It is as though first generation families are a paint brush dipped in red acrylic. Then, entering in, America acts like a faucet blasting cold water. In result, we find a cultural make-up that has been drained and watered down as the paint continues to be pressed out of the brush. I am a result of this straining. There is no hint of accent in my voice — I am aware that I do not belong with the kids from the Spanish club. It was apparent when the F’s on Spanish tests stacked up, as though reminding me that no matter how hard I tried or studied I was a failure to my culture.
If you were to ask if there was a sense of belonging anywhere else—the answer would be no. There is a disconnect with every part of my body. The curly hair, the caramel skin, the deep brown eyes. There is no belonging within this Latin body. But is my body what makes me Latin American? Is it the Spanish words I know or how “Mexican” my parents raised me to be? Is it not the dozens upon dozens of tamales that my grandma taught me to make every year, holding my hands saying, “Mija, you’ll teach your granddaughter this?” Is it wrong that I have been raised as an American girl? Is it ignorant to wonder or assume that these are the things that compose my ethnic make up?
I have heard it said that when engaging with American culture, one must either accept Americanization or feel like a stranger—never at home, always torn. While so many voices scream that I do not belong in either of their circles, there remains a vacancy of whispers telling me I do belong. Hope glimmers through.. Something must change in the way we perceive culture, it is something we need to talk about to first, second and third generations alike. We must teach our sons and daughters we belong in our skin, that our skin is a home no matter the color. Our generation can hope for a new tube of paint to mix with the heirloom paintbrushes of our grandparents. It will never be easy, but it will always be necessary and so we paint on.
To the Mexican Girl I Thought I Was -
Here’s to the Mexican girl
To her big brown eyes and her caramel covered skin,
I say, goodbye goodbye.
To her curly hair and romantic last name,
I shout, goodbye goodbye.
To the r’s that she never learned to roll,
the infinitive verb she could not conjugate
I scream goodbye goodbye.
To the tamales that she made, thinking and praying
And to her abuelita who assured that she was enough.
I whisper, goodbye goodbye.
-hailey daniela zendejas 10/3/2017