Hispanic Heritage Month: Mixed (Race) Feelings
September marks Hispanic Heritage Month, and truthfully, I never know where I stand when it comes to this month.
I’m half-European white mutt (read: German, Scottish, Irish, etc.) and half-Mexican (third generation). I don’t evenly fit into the Hispanic box, but I also don’t fit into any box outside of it either. Honestly, as a mixed race individual, I don’t know what to claim.
Three years later, I took a Mexican Art History class that really brought the question of racial identity to the forefront. I wondered more and more about my grandparents’ experience growing up in Mexico and moving to the United States, and I wondered more and more about how their traditions subtly influenced me. I started to realize how much I identified with some parts of the Mexican lifestyle – in ways I hadn’t really acknowledged before (I had a similar experience watching Jane the Virgin too). I also realized how little I did know. So, I applied for a research grant for the class to learn not only about Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, but the impact that their time in the United States had on them. I wanted to learn more about the experiences my family may have had. After shockingly winning the grant money, I departed on a solo trip to do research and along the way asked my grandparents for more bits and pieces of their history. I slowly learned a little more Spanish too (outside of my two Spanish classes I took during my freshman year of college).
I started to lean into the Hispanic heritage a little more day by day, but felt like I was late to the game in understanding this part of myself. On top of it all, I still enjoyed the “basic white girl” things. Was I even really, truly Hispanic?
Cut to now.
When I moved to San Diego, I was shocked at the amount of people who approached me speaking Spanish. Meanwhile, I had coworkers note that they would never have guessed I was biracial – even with my Mexican last name. All the while, I felt like I could never identify with the people who spoke Spanish to me or my white coworkers and friends. I was neither Hispanic enough or white enough. Sure, I could claim biracial. But, it leaves me in the middle with no real ties or community.
At the end of the day, this month reminds me that I still don’t know what I am allowed to claim. Can I celebrate? Can I claim my “Mexican-ness” though I still don’t fully know that part of myself? Or do I ignore one half of me completely?