This might be a bit of a “rambling on” post as I try to fasten on to “something” and find myself in the discussion of ethnicity.
My parents are Mexican immigrants, and I, their 8th child, was born and raised in the United States. I have always called myself Mexican, I don’t say “of Mexican descent”, just simply Mexican born in the U.S, es muy facil. Pero, at the same time, my fellow Americans, like my cold blooded Englishman will ask “Doesn’t that make you American of Mexican descent?” Like I said, it’s easy, I am Mexican-American.
The Pocha Treatment
When I was in Mexico recently, after hearing me speak, the people I was around probed into my birthplace. My strong latina features could have settled the matter, pero my “American accent” (I didn’t know I had an “American” accent) pointed me al otro lado. De donde eres? Where am I from? Where exactly was I born? I’m from California, Porque? Why were they even questioning? Somehow that bothered me. Was I gonna get the “Pocha” treatment? Where there is an immediate disdain for American born “Mexicans” if their Spanish is not fluent.
One lady assumed that I was born in Mexico, not an outlandish assumption I guess, but then I spoke, y pues, if I’m from America I will speak like an American, a Mexican-American that is. Are you tracking? I found myself explaining a few times that while I was born in America, my parents were from Jalisco, this was my Mexican card. There are lots of feelings that can arise in this distinction, a defensiveness about my Spanglish, a fear of rejection, a stubbornness that says, I love America. I’m different from the “real” Mexicans, but I’m not, it’s in my blood, my roots and my descendancy.
I didn’t want to be treated as a Pocha, or criticized for speaking bad Spanish. When I’m speaking with Mexicans that speak Spanish fluently, I am very aware of my Spanglish. My brain works extra hard to translate English words into Spanish, I sometimes get frustrated that these Mexicans don’t “Spanglish.” After repeated attempts at Spanglish, it gets messy at times. I tend to apologize for my “broken Spanish.”
Gracias a Dios, that my familia and my friends were very gracious and patient. I didn’t feel disrespected or mocked, my “Americanness” didn’t keep them from connecting with me or embracing me. When we were cozy with each other, I appreciated when they corrected me and they enjoyed the Spanglish they picked up from me.
Those days in Mexico with my flaco, were much needed, our friendship flourished and our marriage covenant was strengthened. Mi esposo, did very well in Mexico. In full immersion mode, he enjoyed the hospitality of our Mexican culture and he used his gift of patience as he listened to the fast Spanish talk. He was able to understand bits and pieces and stayed engaged in the conversation. When things got out of his reach he asked me for help 🙂 After 34 years of being infused with our romantic language, he should himself be a fluent “Spanglisher.” Why hadn’t I taught him? Pero, I have always pushed that responsibility on him. My gringo felt the admonishment and so he practiced the few words he already knew and was rewarded with encouragement.
Embracing My Multicultural Life
While I was in Mexico only too aware of my language shortcomings, my familia didn’t laugh at me or criticize the many bloopers, they embraced this Mexican American girl and lavished a grand opening to their lives and welcomed me and my Benjamin with open arms. I am looking forward to further connection with them and looking forward to sharing with them how God has blessed me in my Christian, American and Mexican cultures; it is a rich life.