No Es Bastante Mexicano, No Es Bastante Americano

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
This essay is about never fitting in with either side of your family as a result of divisive blood. Sometimes, race is too big a barrier for even your loved ones to look beyond.

Submitted: April 16, 2017

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Submitted: April 16, 2017



Before she left, my mom would cook dinner almost every night. “Nothing out of a box,” She’d say, reading from her grandma’s recipe book, her libro de recetas. I remember most of those meals having a kick I could never quite put my finger on. It wasn’t the furor of spices, or the texture from the rice. It wasn't the heat and how it held every ingredient together. It wasn’t even the pan dulce sitting on the middle of the table, listening to the sounds of forks and knives, waiting for them to be set down. My mom taught me that cooking is an art, especially when reviving recipes from generations passed. It is to convey history, the love that was felt as this great grandmother and that great great grandmother shared a piece of food they haven’t tasted since age five. That was the secret ingredient I tasted in every single one of my mother’s meals; the ability to make old love new again.

I haven’t had a meal like that in over five years. My dad is a stranger with clumsy hands and a wavering brow, stooped over the stove as he waits for the chicken to cook. He won’t add any spices save for salt and pepper. He won’t dance as he’s preparing the side dish of microwaved vegetables. He won’t think twice about the meal itself. It is just food, no history or love behind it.

This was life after the divorce. My mom took to California, and I stayed with my dad in New Hampshire. It didn’t feel like a difficult decision at the time, but sometimes I wonder how different life would be-culturally-if I had boarded that plane with her. It’s not just the food, but the Latin fire my mom would spark. It’s the spanish station that used to be preset in our car’s radio, the Ricky Martin CDs. Now, we never speak a word of spanish unless I’m studying for school.

I’ve always known how racist my dad’s side of the family is. It was first acknowledged when I was around six, eating thanksgiving dinner at my grandma’s. My mom was in the bathroom, and I guess that made it okay for my Grandma and Aunt to laugh about how dirty Mexicans are. I have never heard such foul ignorance so close to my ear before, and I almost had a meltdown right then and there. “They’re talking bad about mexicans,” I whispered a little too loudly to my dad, my face turning red. Of course, my Grandma and Aunt heard. They laughed even harder and said it was the truth. They didn’t realize that they were talking me. But I’m Mexican, I wanted to say but didn’t. And I’m not dirty, am I? I’m not bad.

This would occur several times before I actually stand up and say something. I never mentioned it to my dad, nor to my mom. Their racist tongues erased my heritage, and it felt as though my loose grip on the spanish language slipped completely for my family’s sake. My mom was the only Mexican thing about me, and now that she wasn’t physically in the picture, neither was my ethnicity. It was erasure.

It would’ve felt manageable if my mom’s side of the family accepted me. But I haven’t spoken to my many cousins, to my Tia Pate. I wonder if they’ve grouped me with my father’s family, if they think my skin too pale and my voice too American. I am forced to believe they see me as nothing beyond white.

Enter 2015. I am approaching the last day of school, and I need to go shopping for a dress. My aunt and grandma decide to drive me to the mall that’s over an hour away. I’ve learned to not expect friendly conversation that agrees with my beliefs, so I keep my mouth shut. But this is the time of Michael Brown, of uprisings across the nation, screams of social injustice. One racist comment slips, which triggers a handful more. Eventually, it gets to the point where I feel myself unraveling. And then, a remark about Mexicans. I won’t quote it, because even now it’s just a string of ignorance. The point is that it hurt. A lot. I almost said it. I almost cried. They still did not realize that I am Mexican, that it feels as though they are targeting me. I should not feel rejected by my own family.

I told my dad that night. At first he wrote it off as something insignificant, that their mindset is something unchangeable and I just have to live with it. But he saw my red eyes, how I was completely and utterly overwhelmed with the idea that my own family can’t filter their ignorance for a relative they claim to love. So he called my grandma, infuriated. It was a loud conversation I don’t like to remember, but in the end my dad won. My grandma no longer speaks a word of racism around me, and while I know she may still have wrong views, it lifts my heart to know she’s at least trying. My aunt is still someone I’m unsure of, but nothing severe has slipped from her mouth since that call. They at least act like they accept me, and that’s fine as long as I learn to accept myself.

This is not to slander my family or reap sympathy from kind hearts. To be half white and half colored is to be divided both physically and emotionally. It is never completely fitting in with either side. It feels like your blood is segregated, both halves constantly waging war on each other. It is always questioning if you are truly this or that.

I’ve learned that accepting who you are begins with love. I am not completely white, and I am not completely mexican, either. But I am enough to be acknowledged as both. I speak broken spanish and my r’s go unrolled. I am pale enough to be a vampire, but my hair is darker than Ricky Martin’s. The term ‘half’ is irrelevant. One is not half Latina. One just is Latina. Acceptance breaks all barriers.

© Copyright 2018 Mikayla connolly. All rights reserved.

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