A Woman Without a Country
As we all know, this election cycle has been unavoidable and exhausting. For all of us, there has been at least one talking point that hits deeply. Without getting into the political nitty gritty of it all, I want to talk about some of what's been brought up for me. This is bound to be long, but bear with me.
I am Mexican. My father is (still) a Mexican national, born in the southern province of Tabasco. Growing up, that heritage was a huge part of my day-to-day life. I called my grandmother abuelita and loved reading aloud to her whenever she asked me to teach her more English. She was disappointed when I didn’t want a quinceañera. My dad's side of the family spoke primarily Spanish at get-togethers and they started teaching it to me at the same time I was learning English. I loved pan dulce and hated molé and ate homemade tamales with wild abandon. Our holidays followed Hispanic custom (which was particularly annoying when we wouldn't open presents on Christmas Eve until midnight). I grew up as a proud Hispanic child in a heavily Mexican populated town. I never questioned this part of my identity.
As I got older, my abuela got sick. The family stopped seeing each other as frequently. The tio who hosted family gatherings had an accident, so the mantle was passed on to my mother - whose family hails from the Midwest. The Mexican customs faded. Dad stopped speaking Spanish at home. My ability to speak it faded. My younger brothers were raised with significantly less Hispanic influence. However, it wasn't until I went to a Mexican majority high school that I felt uncomfortable with myself. People laughed when I told them that I, too, was Mexican. I look white, so I couldn't possibly be Hispanic. Hell. My full blooded Mexican father looks as white as I do. I can read Spanish proficiently, but my speaking is poor. What does that count for in the scheme of things?
I went from being a Mexican child raised in a Hispanic family to being too white to be Mexican (yet simultaneously too Mexican to be white). I'm a woman without a culture and this election has only pushed the divide further. When Trump talks about immigration, about what brutes and losers my people are, I feel the hurt in my bones. I worry for my father, who is in the process of obtaining his citizenship. And on a less societally important level, I'm worried that I'm not involved enough in my heritage to feel as personally attacked as I do.
This year has shown me that it's time to reconnect. I want to know more about my family. I want to travel to my dad's childhood home and see where we came from. I want to push my language skills beyond Spanish 2. I’m already in the process of obtaining dual citizenship (and when people ask me why, I know that it stems from emotionally needing that piece of paper to prove that, yes, I am Mexican). I’m going to a Dia de Los Muertos celebration as well as a Halloween party this year (and yes, I’m aware that it isn’t Mexican Halloween). It's important that I don't feel so uncomfortable with incorporating my culture into my life that I feel like I'm appropriating it.
With all of this in mind, no matter which way the election falls, I will be doing my best to find who I am within the context of my ancestry. You'll be seeing more of this in my artwork going forward and I hope that you'll follow along with me on this journey.
To quote Neruda (who I will be reading substantially more from as I start learning Spanish again), "Algún día en cualquier parte, en cualquier lugar indefectiblemente té encontrarás a ti mismo, y ésa, sólo ésa, puede ser la más feliz o las más amarga de tus horas."
Translated: Someday, somewhere - anywhere, unfailingly, you'll find yourself, and that, and only that, can be the happiest or bitterest hour of your life.