As we celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15 in the United States which is where I live, and it’s a time when people recognize the contributions of Hispanics and Latino Americans to the U.S. and celebrate the group’s heritage and culture I have done some deep reflection on my mixed-family status and confusing upbringing.

I enjoy learning about Latinos who have made significant contributions to the U.S. and I won’t start with the list of my favorites because we all have our own, but in the end we can all agree that there’s just not enough of them out there. And if there is I believe there’s not someone that we can relate to or has a similar story to ours.

As I sit here typing the following lengthy lines I ask myself some serious questions: Looking back at my life, is it okay that I celebrate my Latino heritage, which I am so proud of, but in a society that doesn’t fully accept me along with 11 million other immigrants? Or should these undocumented immigrants that sometimes feel torn between two worlds not celebrate? Yes, I understand I may be thinking overly out of the box or being extremely irrational, but it’s a sentiment that has been with me for the last several days.

Plus it’s a feeling that I cannot avoid to talk about when immigration has been at the forefront of national headlines almost daily, or at least it has been since Mr. Donald Trump announced his candidacy for President of the U.S.

Let me give you some background on my life. I was born in a “pueblo” called Jerez de Garcia Salinas in Zacatecas, Mexico. My parents are from a small “rancho” called “Los Reales” from that same state, which by the way I’ve heard is beautiful. My parents got married in “Los Reales”and came to the U.S. with their 5 children (including me – the youngest) in 1992. I went to school in California. I graduated from private schools for my Bachelors and Masters degrees here as well and have yet to return to Mexico. Yes, exactly 23 years that I haven’t gone back from when I arrived in September 16, 1992.

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4 years old in Zacetecas, MX.

To a certain extent I’ve had certain advantages, but hold on not really if I have worked my butt off, or some people would dare to tell me that I’ve had it easy. Easy in what way?

In high school I always pushed myself to be out of my comfort zone and to take Advanced Placement (AP) courses that none of my Latino peers would take, I was involved in activities and organizations with people that didn’t have the same upbringing as myself. Though, I looked like them because people always assume that I am Anglo or “white” by my light-skin and hidden Spanish accent, sometimes.

I was enrolled in AP courses because I wanted more for myself and dreamed of attending a 4-year university, but it was a struggle because I was learning material and history where Latinos were not a part of. There were never Latinos being brought up in textbooks or in discussions. My participation in the classroom was minimal because I was always intimidated by those who were more intelligent and I felt like my comments or feedback didn’t provide substance to a discussion because I couldn’t relate. Being the only Latino in a setting has always been a common denominator in many different situations in my life—still today.

I went off to a 4-year university and that same common denominator played out there as well. I attended college and it was there where my feelings of not belonging came into play even stronger because the amount of Latinos was low. We were the minority. I was there on a full-ride scholarship for which I will always feel blessed and appreciative, but I would question if I really deserved that as a Latino who many times in high school felt discouraged because of his background.

There’s always been this side of me that has continued to feel out place, unwelcome and many times simply confused as to how society puts so many restraints on having us reach our full potential and not to mention the negative stereotypes they categorize immigrants under. Yes, I know I preach motivation on my social media, but you know sometimes, like now, you dig deeper into your thoughts and you begin to realize that you’ve been trapped between two confusing worlds.

The two worlds make me question if I am American already since I have lived 23 years (wow, a lifetime) in this country without ever returning to my home country or if am I Mexican because I was born there, it’s in my blood and that’s where my family is from?

But, I can’t be American if I don’t possess proper legal documents to say that I’ve been accepted into this country. What constitutes being an American? A legal document that makes you entitled, which I don’t have or simply living and breathing a life in this country and partaking in all traditions, holidays, celebrations and lifestyle here?

Or, am I only Mexican, but I’ve lived in the states pretty much all my life? I won’t ask anymore questions.

I recognize that at times I have been blessed beyond my imagination and I’ve been placed in situations where I’ve had people support me fully and such was the case when I studied a Masters in another private institution, but again there I questioned my complete racial identity because I was the only Latino in some of my lecture rooms and at times there was no place where I felt safe. Yes, I had allies and supporters which I am still grateful for, but that sentiment of being torn between two worlds still existed.

Now I work in the auto industry in yet another setting where the majority of people don’t have the same background as mine. Sometimes I can’t relate nor feel comfortable with my co-workers when I participate in international meetings with associate’s overseas or in the office, find it difficult to learn lingo and abbreviations that I had never heard before, partake in projects that are completely new to me and simply not have someone that understands my background is terrifying at times.

I’ve embraced change and I know it’s good, but I feel I wasn’t well equipped for some of my life experiences, but I guess the saying, “you live and learn” applies here.

I know I have done a lot, but I am my worst enemy because I expect so much of myself, such as always wanting to give 150% and that’s such a bad quality to have if it is not managed rationally.

It’s such an odd feeling that thankfully now I have begun to learn how to manage, but at first when I started working in a completely new setting at my current role I would ask myself, “Why am I here? No one understands where I come from? Am I worth being here when I do not have the same background as so many people here?” But, I have learned to adapt and accept that I was chosen for my diversity that I bring to the table and should be more appreciative of the company that has welcomed me.

Though through all this it still leaves me hanging and having me ask the same question from above about it being okay to celebrate my Latino heritage if I’ve never visited Mexico and all I know about it is what I have learned from my family, friends and information I research on the internet. It could just be me, but I just find it interesting how I could be so proud of something if I have never been immersed in it. Don’t misinterpret my lines, I love my heritage and background, but why must I still feel so lost between the two worlds? Will I ever come to fully understand my position?

Maybe I am over-analyzing my whole situation, but I know there must be a reason why I have come up with this analytical post and maybe one person can relate.

Yes, I love my traditional Mexican food, listening to “banda” and “corridos” music, drinking tequila, going to “charreadas and rodeos,” celebrating Mexican holidays such as “Rosca de Reyes” and “Dia de los Muertos” and speaking Spanish, but I am also a full participant of celebrating 4th of July, watching the Super Bowl, celebrating Thanksgiving, speaking English, eating American food, listening to country music and the life that I have built in a country that has given me so much.

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27 years old in California, U.S.

I don’t see myself moving back to Mexico, although it’s crossed my mind many times, but for what, what kind of future can I expect there? Don’t get me wrong I want to visit on a vacation and fully immerse myself into its gastronomy, history, colorful “pueblos”, beautiful topography, music and everything it has to offer, that is one of my dreams.

I promise to stop giving myself such a hard time for being an — undocumented immigrant like many of you. What for? We belong here – in the land of immigrants that has shaped this country for the best.

Furthermore, I deny the fact that I have betrayed my home country because it was not a decision that I took. It was a decision that was taken by my parents and family.

I will stop questioning if I should celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month because I should for all of those that have contributed so much to this great society. I will work on myself and when the time comes, one day, when I have fully immersed into both worlds that will no longer be broken I will be celebrating some of the bigger contributions that I was able to give back to this country that has given me boundless opportunities.

I will start by fully embracing going into meetings with VP’s, Executives and Corporate Managers where it’s very corporate-like and we’re all dressed-up in suits to shifting to another world that is also mine of stepping into my Mexican home with mom’s specialty and delicious Mexican dishes, where the main language that is spoken there is Spanish, in the background you can hear “telenovelas” playing and where it always feels like there’s 100 people speaking when there’s only 5 of us. Lol

I continue to stay hopeful for a positive change in American society where we are no longer marginalized and are given the opportunity to reach our full potential. One day I will be able to say that I am fully American when I receive the necessary documents that will back me up legally and fully Mexican when I can go back to my roots. For now I will fully embrace and accept this opportunity that has me lost between two worlds because this feeling, I know, is temporary.

And to you reading this blog never allow anyone bring you down. Stay proud of your unique story, your heritage and your culture because no one can take that away from you. You are who you make yourself to be and no one can ever change that. I have always felt proud of my background, I’ve had questions and doubts –yes, but have never buried my pride.

Maybe my story will help a person going through a similar situation and I want you to know that things do get better. But sometimes you must go through the worst to get to that positive point, but it happens. And when you do you’ll learn to value everything 10 times more and the experiences that have shaped you.

I will erase the concept “ni de aqui, ni de alla” from my head and will remind myself that I belong in both worlds even if they seem confusing and torn at the moment!

Comments

  • Nailea Fabiola Ayala

    Wow, admiro tu valentía por subir algo tan personal. Todo lo que te preguntas tiene muchisisimo sentido y aunque no puedo decir que estoy en tu misma situación no sabes como me identifique de alguna forma u otra.

    Al igual que tu, últimamente me he preguntando porque abre nacido tan dividida entre dos mundos. Bueno, en mi caso es mejor dicho entre dos idiomas. Mi amor por este idioma es infinito, me encantan los poemas, letras de canciones y literatura en español. Para mi tienen mas peso. Muchas veces me pregunto como seria mi vida si hubiera nacido en México y las ganas de vivir en ese hermoso país a veces invaden porque aquí crecí bailando folclórico, porque crecí entre caballos, charros y charreadas, porque el mariachi me llega al alma y porque las canciones de Chente siempre calan. Porque pienso que las serenatas deberían de existir aquí y porque saludar a la gente en la calle debería de ser lo mas normal del mundo. Mi intención no es quejarme porque se que soy muy afortunada, pero no puedo evitar sobre analizar esto y el sentimiento no se va.

    Trabajo en una firma de relaciones publicas y aunque no me siento fuera de lugar físicamente (dicen que parezco todo menos Mexicana a lo que yo contesto que soy muy orgullosa de serlo) pero cuando se trata de chistes, anécdotas, lo que hare este fin de semana, dichos, la lista es larga, en todos esos aspectos me siento fuera de lugar y a la vez siento que me ven con ojos de “Que onda con esta chava?” cuando no entiendo algunos de sus dichos. No hay razon alguna para no entender chistes “gringos” cuando yo nací aquí, pero si hay veces que me sentia como una tonta a veces menos por no poder expresarme mejor en ingles que en español. Cuando visito México dicen que soy la “pochita” de California y cuando estoy aquí soy la chava Mexicana que no sale de las charreadas. Siempre catalogando. Busco un buen balance y definitivamente como tu, borrar el “ni de aquí, ni de alla” de mi mente. Mas bien disfrutar de ambas culturas y crecer como persona. En fin, disfrute leer tu post, te felicito por tu blog y aun mas por nunca olvidar nuestras tradiciones Mexicanas.

    Saludos,

    Nailea

    • Gustavo Gutierrez

      Hola Nailea!!! Muchas gracias por tomarte el tiempo de leer este post. Se te agradece bastante! Gracias por compartir un poco de historia. Suerte en tu trabajo y lo que haces. Gracias por conectar por aqui.

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