Growing up as a mixed-race individual is not easy. In case you didn’t know, I am the product of a Hispanic/White relationship. But, since my mother divorced by bio-dad when I was still a baby and he disappeared from our lives, I was raised in a very heavily Mexican-American household.
I’m sure the half-black-half-white combo comes with its own challenges. And, although I can’t directly relate, I can relate to the identity struggle in general.
Being a very white-looking girl in a Mexican family where everyone else is creamy-coffee-colored was not fun. At a young age, I was nicknamed Güera (roughly translated: pale-pasty-ass-white-girl) which made my whiteness stand out even more among the brown contingency. And, although I wasn't alone because my brother is as friggen white-looking as I am, he was generally accepted by everyone as Hispanic and wasn’t nicknamed anything racist that pointed him out as an outcast with pale skin.
In my younger years, I found myself always trying to be accepted as a Latina. Sometimes I was accepted, but not always. Sometimes, I just “wasn’t Hispanic enough.” And, on the flip side, I was also never “white enough” when trying to identify with white folks. Basically, I lived in a sort of cultural identity purgatory.
However, as I matured, it became less important as I built my own self-worth without trying to pigeon hole myself into any individual racial identity.
Wow. That sounded fancier than it actually is. Sometimes I amaze myself at how enlightened I think I am.
Anyway, my point here is that just when I thought I was comfortable in my own skin and that my races don’t define who I am, I met someone who thought I was the Mexican-est person she had ever met.
My mother-in-law. (God rest her soul.)
Except, she wasn't nice about it. Nor, was she ever politically correct. And, she thought Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Hondurans, Guatemalans (etc) were all MEXICANS, too.
Me: Uhm, Mom. You KNOW those are different countries, right? Mexico is a COUNTRY... and so is Honduras. Also, Puerto Ricans are essentially AMERICAN.
MIL: Who cares! You know what I mean!
Me: No. No, I do not.
She had two favorite things she liked to do to torture me. First she liked to collect Spanish "literature" so that she had something "nice" to give me every time she saw me. And, by literature, I mean junk mail, coupons she picked up on a rack at the grocery store, and religious pamphlets left by solicitors. I'd show up for a visit and she'd excuse herself to go grab the "mexican shit" she had collected for me since my last visit.
Me: I don't want any of this shit.
MIL: But, it's in Spanish.
MIL: So.. don't you buy all these things? My neighbor says all the Mexicans use this seasoning, and the coupon is for $0.50 off! Don't your people like discounts? And, here..what about this...?
Me: I have never even heard of any of this crap. And, I'm especially NOT going to read this evangelical bullshit!
MIL: Well, not all Mexicans are Catholic!
Me: WHAT? What does that even mean!?
And so the conversations would generally go haywire because in her mind all that shit was jumbled up. And, it was probably hard to squeeze all the dumb, racist shit out in an orderly fashion. I get that, I guess. Because, I'm a poster child for going off on tangents.
I think that mostly, I was a fun novelty - like a freak show circus act. She probably loved telling all her old crotchety friends that her son is such a maverick for marrying a Mexican! She probably even had them all collecting those stupid Spanish newspapers for me, too!
But, what did I do when she gave me all that shit to read? I bitched about it, then I gathered it all up and acted like I was going to take it home and read it. Why? Because I was raised to graciously accept stupid ass shit people give me so as not to be rude.
I'd carry that shit all the way home in my car. I'd even walk it into the house before throwing it in the garbage.
Because I'm a decent person that way.
And, although I considered it, I never set in on fire in the sink while chanting voodoo curses. Not even once. I swear.
Me: Hubber, the shit your mom says could get her shot one day.
Hubber: Yeah, you're probably right. But, what do you do?
Me: Uhm. YOU could tell her that she's racist and rude! And, that if it were anyone but me, she'da prolly been slapped by now!
Hubber: She's old. She thinks it's ok to say whatever the hell she wants without repercussions.
Me: I think you're an enabler.
Hubber: Word to the wise: Your voodoo shit ain't got nothing on her.
Anyway. I said there were two things she liked to do to torture me and test my patience. The other thing is this: She liked to make me talk to "mexican-looking people" in Spanish for her. EVEN IF THEY SPOKE ENGLISH.
Once, she called me while I was at work.
Me: Hi. What's up?
MIL: You need to talk to this guy.
Me: What guy?
MIL: The Mexican who does my yard. Tell him I'm not paying him shit unless he puts the yard clippings IN the trash can instead of just leaving them there at the curb.
Me: Geez. Ok.
Hello. Yes, I heard her.
Me: You speak English?
Yard Guy: Yes. I put bag in trash can. No problem.
Ok, thank you so much. I'm sorry about that.
Yard Guy: Is ok, ma'am.
Did you tell him?
Me: Uhm, seriously? HE. SPEAKS. ENGLISH. I didn't have to tell him anything. He heard and understood every word you said.
MIL: I just heard him speaking to you in Mexican!
Me: WHAT? You mean SPANISH. But, NO. That was English! He just has an accent.
MIL: Bullshit. I didn't understand a word.
Me: I gotta go. I'm at work.
Another time she did that was when the City was widening her road. In her professional opinion, the job was taking entirely too long and the Mexicans were to blame. So, she called me up, walked her ass out there in her moo-moo with a cigarette dangling from her mouth... me on the phone in one hand and hell-raising fury in the other!
We were going to tell those Mexicans to hurry up and get her fucking street done or there would be hell to pay because BY GOSH, her daughter-in-law knows the mayor AND she speaks Spanish, mother fuckers!!
All I said when the guy got on the phone was, "Sorry! She's kinda crazy. But the quicker you get the job done, the sooner you get her off your back. That should be incentive enough."
I'm not saying my threat was successful, but they DID wrap that shit up the following week and she gave me all the credit for it. Pretty sure she thought I called the mayor.
So, yeah. She definitely kept things interesting in her own fucked-up way. I'm not gonna lie, I was mad at her most days. But now, I kinda miss her.
I guess the moral of the story is: be careful what you wish for. Turns out, being Mexican is highly overrated.