“My parents would be disappointed if they met you” My 15-year-old self could not believe this came out of someone's mouth.
I asked the girl sitting next to me why she said this and she proceeded to say, “Because your parents failed you.”
I was stunned. All because my parents didn’t teach me Spanish growing up.
I went to a predominately Hispanic high school. We were not short of Garcias, Torres, Espinoza, you name it. We were deeply rooted in our culture, a Posada (Christmas parade) through the halls during Christmas, Dia De Los Muertos alter as wide as our school auditorium, and quince invitations from freshmen passed around each week.
I didn’t fit in with the brown girls here, sure I’m brown on the outside but I didn’t pronounce my last name with an accent or talk about my family trips to mexico. Something that had never seemed like a problem suddenly made me feel like an outcast.
My mom came here when she was very little with just my grandma. My grandma wanted them to fit into the American lifestyle so, in the little English she knew, she spoke only English in the house. On the other hand, my dad was fluent in Spanish but opted against teaching me. This decision left me with a void in my identity I couldn’t find the words to fill.
Don’t get me wrong, growing up I had plenty of trips to King Taco, blasted Celia Cruz in the living room to dance with my dad, and walked to the panaderia (bakery) with my tata (grandpa).
I came to Biola and noticed how I was oftentimes one of the only brown girls let alone someone with brown hair in my classes. I felt like I stood out again, except this time I was greeted with Hola’s or asked if my wearing something was a part of my culture.
I was one of two Hispanic girls on my dorm floor, we don’t think we look alike at all but somehow everyone mixed us up. I joined the Biola Bellas to find the brown-girl community I missed from high school. I was greeted with kindness but I found myself looking to my friend at some points to ask what someone had said. I was reminded again, that I still didn’t speak Spanish.
I wasn’t Brown enough for the Brown girls but I wasn’t White enough for the White girls.
This is something that I am still navigating. I am a proud first-generation Guatemalan and second-generation Mexican. I may be gentrified like a restaurant that has Loteria cards for menus but I am learning to love that about myself.
Happy Hispanic Heritage Month, especially to those who don’t feel Brown enough.