Wera

"Wera, bolia, gringa."

"No, mija, you are too pale for that"

Those were mantras of my cultural identity. In all this discourse about race, we always seem to forget those in the middle. Sure, black kids are shot by cops. Mothers pull their children close to them as a hispanic man walks past them on the sidewalk. Children chant "CHING CHANG CHONG!" but no one seems to remember people caught in the middle.

People like me.

There are many of us out there. We are vocal, but we are silcened by both groups we can't be apart of. That is our plight. We are controlled dispite the fact that we do not belong. In all the talk of acceptance, we are still lost.

I grew up in a small southern town. I was a member of the only hispanic family for miles. The only problem is, that I didn't look hispanic at all. My parents, sibling, cousins, aunts and uncles, were all privy to the rich dark uniform they were born with. They were born looking like chicanos. I was not. In every large hispanic family, there is always one "white baby," and the universe decided that person would be me. 

Growing up in a town that was almost all white, I became "white washed." Like every other human, I imitated the culture I was raised in. When my cousins, who all lived in a major city, and all went to the same school, came to stay with us in the summer, there was a clear difference. I was never dark enough. I could never be accepted by them.I didn't just look different, I acted different too. My skin turned red in the sun, while theirs grew darker. I begged my freckles to fade. I cursed my red curls. As soon as I was able, I died my hair and used all the makeup I could to cover my whiteness. No matter what I did, or showed interest in, I could never be mexican enough.

English is not my first language. I learned to speak it in kindergarden, and I have always had an accent. In school, some thought I was exotic, and treated me like a perfoming monkey. "Say [insert phrase here] in Spainish!" Others felt the need to interrogate me about catholicism or my home life. While others teased me and never let me have peace. There were few, who acted like I was just like everyone else. I called those people my friends. For years, I struggled to hide my accent, I never spoke Spanish outside my home, and never mentioned my home life. I went so far as to never pack my lunch, although my mom is an outstanding cook, because my lunch would be different. However, it didn't matter how much I tried to hide me heritage, I could never be American enough. 

What group do I call a home? Where do I belong? The answer is simple: with those who love me.

If you feel caught in the middle, remember that you are not alone, that you are remembered by all those who are like you, and that you belong anywhere there is love. 

User Comments
Anon-1

I didn't expect that to end the way that it did. Thank you so much for sharing your story!

Anon-2

Such an uplifting, and highly life-affirming message. The people who love you are the ones who matter; if somebody is unwilling to tolerate you for the color of your skin, or for your family's ethnicity, they aren't worth the time of day. Kudos on having such a healthy and positive attitude as the one you've expressed through this story :)

Anon-3

I admit to being one of those people who treats those with Spanish accents as being "exotic." I find the language and the culture of many Hispanic societies to be beautiful. Not "better" or "worse" than anyone else, just beautiful in their own ways. It's easy to feel caught in the middle of two extremes, as you say, but there will always be people there who care about you for who you are.