Most people don’t know I’m part Mexican.
Growing up in the United States with an American father and Mexican immigrant mother — being a “mixed kid” — has its pros and cons.
Born in Orlando, Fla. — I moved to Santa Fe in 2010 — I’ve lived in the United States most of my life, regularly taking trips to Mexico every summer to visit aunts, uncles and friends abroad. Living here as a mixed kid, it’s very hard for others to notice I have Mexican blood because I inherited most of my father’s physical characteristics. People rarely even know I speak fluent Spanish.
In Mexico, my mostly white skin and blue eyes make me look “other.” I regularly feel like the odd one out, especially in schools. From 2007-08, when I was 5 years old, I attended a Mexican school in Tabasco. While there, I was sometimes made fun of for being white and having a dark-skinned mother. I eventually made friends, but it took a while for me to adjust to the school system and feel comfortable.
Today, my younger brother and I are still teased by relatives from our Mexican side of the family, often called “gringos,” which is a slang for an American, typically white.
But it’s not just about having two ethnicities; it’s about having two cultures. The food, pace of life and religion are all different. One contrast for me personally is that most of Mexico, including my mom, is Catholic, while my dad is Buddhist.
Even regions within in Mexico have their own identities. In southern Mexico, like the state of Tabasco, where my mom is from, history and tradition differ from northern states. Having southern influence, my mom would take me to see the Mayan ruins in places like Tabasco, neighboring Chiapas and Chichén Itzá. Despite most of her family now living in Mexico City, they still teach us about the ancient Mayas and how they’re important to our family.
Tabasco is a tropical state, and living conditions there are hot and humid, with lots of bugs, mainly mosquitoes. My brother and I had to adjust to wearing tank tops due to the heat and extra sunscreen because of our lighter skin. After living there during the summer for two years, getting used to a new way of living was difficult.
The municipality of Comalcalco, where my mom is from, is a rural town with few resources. Most of the time, the tap water wasn’t clean, so we’d usually have to drink bottled water and take showers with a bucket. We didn’t have a washing machine, so we learned to wash our clothes by hand. When we had nothing else to do, we’d go out to the fields with my cousins to work with crops. This really made me appreciate things that I sometimes take for granted in the U.S.
Overall, the two different kinds of lifestyles are what make being mixed special. I enjoy being able to see different ways of living and experiencing varied cultures. Although living conditions in southern Mexico can be harder than in America, it’s impossible not to love both places. I have a lot of pride and appreciation for my family and all of those south of the border.
Lincoln Byrd is a junior at Santa Fe High School. Contact him at email@example.com.