My parents met at a race riot.
On opposite sides.
My mom, the Hispanic beauty queen, was on the side trying to get the LaRaza flag raised on her campus in East LA. My dad, the Vietnam vet (recently returned), was on the side of the MP’s, trying to keep order. He asked her to hold his books, and she did, staying there long enough for him to return and ask for her name and number.
I was born in East LA not long after. I always thought that was kinda cool even before Cheech Marin sang a song about it.
Where I was born, who I was born to, and how I was raised gave me a unique perspective.
In life, there are patterns. In nature the seasons change. In science water always boils at the same temperature. There are patterns even in society, which is why we are told if we don’t study history, we are doomed to repeat it. The amount of people in the public at large may be bigger than the two or three generations I have experience with in my family, but the patterns are the same.
In my family, my Abuelo wouldn’t speak to me, or my siblings, because my father was white, and we didn’t speak Spanish. My grandmother on the other side would talk about her Mexican neighbors as if they were from outer space and the Cuban neighbors on the other side as if they had the plague. My uncles and aunts would not invite us to family camp outs with my cousins because we were “Mormon” (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints).
The only thing that my Abuelo and I had in common was our love of old John Wayne movies. I would sit and watch them with him, and everything was good—until he discovered John Wayne was a republican. Then he got rid of all those classics. Even The Quiet Man. I didn’t understand this because my father, the Vietnam Vet Republican candidate for office in So.Cal, would still watch Jane Fonda movies, even though EVERY Vietnam Vet hated her guts.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my family. All of them. I love the big Mexican side that would get together on weekends to have tamales, and I love the rowdy, Irish side who told me ghost stories and Celtic Mythology. I loved the traditions handed down to me, from singing Las Posadas to eating Corned Beef and Cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day. I liked being able to cross the line from one heritage to the other at will—I made corned beef and cabbage tamales last year. That was cool. That made me feel good about both sides of my genealogy. I thought that everyone must feel that way about their inheritance, right?
I saw Stripes. We’re all mutts in America.
I wasn’t a POC being raised in a white home, I was a half breed, being raised in a mixed home. Inside the home it was all about family. No questions. Outside… If I had invested a dime in El Pollo Loco every time I heard “You aren’t Mexican enough,” I would be a member of the board by now. And if I had a dime to invest in Carl’s Jr every time someone white said my problems were because of my Mexican blood, I’d make sure the Carl’s down the street didn’t always run out of chicken strips. AAAAAnd… If I had a dime for every time someone told me what I believe as a Mormon, I’d be rich enough not to have to eat at either Carl’s or El Pollo Loco.
Because of my background, I know what it’s like to be marginalized, discriminated against, and ignored because of my skin color. Both of them. I can pass for the spicy Latina when I want, and I can pass for the pretty Irish girl when I want. That’s the “privilege” of being a half breed, which I think includes auburn hair and big boobs. It’s also the curse of being a half breed: a short temper and a proclivity to alcoholism.
I remember my ex saying the word “Mexican” like it was a curse word. He is my ex, of course, and it could have been that he said it that way on purpose–I don’t think he liked me. I also remember a Guatemalan boyfriend calling me a bolillio (a type of French bread made in Mexico)—white on the inside and brown on the outside. He thought it was hilarious and I figured out why Mexicans don’t like Guatemalans.
I remember that hurt. I remember thinking there was no pardon for me on either side unless I abandoned the other. And why should I abandon any of it? No one could ever make the case why I should. They only continued to proclaim one half of me deficient.
This is why I was so angry and disappointed in President Obama. He had the ideal opportunity to unite both sides of his heritage but decided instead to repeatedly throw half of his lineage under the bus. And look where that led us: at each other’s throats with no forgiveness, no mercy and no quarter, even if you do throw your heritage under the bus.
I don’t know what to do now. Our chance at unity and redemption seems to have been squandered and lost in a world that prefers politics over peace. We have moved on from compromise and compassion.
There is no where to go for someone who refuses to choose between two parts of themself. So here I am, like the little prince, in the middle of nowhere with nowhere to go.