Growing up, I had a hard time communicating with my classmates. At first, it was because of the language barrier, but it became a lot more complicated than that. My peers and I always shared mirrored confused expressions. For them, it was because they couldn't understand something I had just done, and for me, it was because I didn't understand why were they confused. All I did was pull out chilaquiles from my lunchbox.
I remember the specific moment I realized I was different from most people around me. The teacher was going around checking our work, and I overheard a blond girl in my class say, “Her mom wasn’t home to help her with homework.” It sounded like a logical excuse to everyone else, but I was baffled. My mother never helped me with homework. She couldn’t because it was in English.
As one could imagine, it was hard to relate to my friends. Throughout most of my life, this is something I had to become accustomed to. I became disconnected from my culture and was much more used to doing things that my white classmates did. I hardly spoke Spanish around them, and it became a routine for me to buy Uncrustables every day for lunch, rather than going through the process of having to explain to my friends why “my food looked like that” and that yes, it was “edible.”
This eventually made me have a hard time communicating with my family. I already had lost some of my Spanish, and not being able to relate to them culturally made things much worse. In my broken Spanish, I had to explain to them that I didn’t listen to the music of Vicente Fernández or Joan Sebastian, which would always result in a lecture about how I should be proud of who I am.
I was stuck in an uncomfortable position where I was too white for my family and too Mexican for my friends. I felt like I was alone and misunderstood. I realized I was trying too hard to be someone I wasn’t. And while I might have noticed a little bit too late, I decided I would start my journey to explore my roots.
The upside of quarantine was that it was a perfect opportunity for me to finally connect to my culture. It was so significant for me to research it. I learned to appreciate the food, the dances and everything else that came with it. There is so much more to it than I could have imagined. Mexico is more than sombreros and tacos. It’s Catrinas, vibrant colors, soul-touching music and so much more.
It is incredibly important for children of color to understand they will not always fit in and that's OK. It will get better, and you will find people who are willing to appreciate and learn about your culture rather than disrespect it. We should be proud of who we are and our upbringings. Own who you are with confidence and pride. I am not someone people could use to make fun of because of our differences. I am Mexican, and I am proud.