Confessions of a Third Generation Latino: Community
Posted by Roobs on June 3, 2010
This is the third post in my series. This post focuses on my time in middle and high school. Compared to my previous post, this post explores my self-realization of my place in the Mexican community in Visalia and how i addressed it at the time.
The last post in this series was meant primarily to set the foundation of what happens next. I was a young Mexican kid who, in all fairness, wasn’t that Mexican. I became more acutely aware of this fact when i left Royal Oaks Elementary and entered middle school and high school.
The teasing continued througout this time and it did bother me to a good extent. But where i once knew not why i was the target of such ridicule, now i had reasoned why. I wasn’t Mexican enough for the rest of the community living in Visalia.
The Mexican community in Visalia and, arguably throughout the Central Valley, are rather fundamental about what it means to be Mexican. As i mentioned before, the Latino population largely settled in the North Side ghetto and lived below or near the poverty line. The parents of other Mexican kids i interacted with were mostly Catholic and conservative and held more blue-collar and labor-intensive occupations than my parents did. They also held a much more skeptical view of their white neighbors, and not necessarily without good cause.
The Central Valley is not a bastion of liberal ideals as San Francisco would be or even as moderate as Los Angeles might be. The Central Valley is politically and culturally very conservative. They voted heavily in favor of Proposition 8 and if polled today, would probably support Arizona’s new immigration law with similar numbers. That being said, the Mexican community responds by behaving similar towards other as well as their own.
Because my family lived in their nicer part of town, because I grew up in a upper-middle class family, i was not Mexican to these kids. This was where all their critques were coming from. I was the “rich boy” or I was “coconut” – brown on the outside, white on the inside. The Mexican community was attributing my family’s success and prosperity with the same skepticism they treated the white community. And because i looked more like a member of a White family than i did of a Mexican family, they started to push me out of the very community I would otherwise be naturally part of.
In middle school and early high school, i had changed my feelings of just not liking these kids because they didnt like me to a new and unfortunate conclusion. These Mexicans and their culture seemed so offended by me and my family that i didn’t no longer liked Mexicans. Yes, specifically Mexicans. After all this time of being teased and made fun of, i decided at that time Mexicans must be these immature and spiteful people that treat success as something to avoid and those that do achieve it are ostracized from their families and communities as traitors to what they believe made a true Mexican.
However, this feeling was short lived. As i said, it was a feeling that lasted through middle school and just the early part of high school. Unfortunately, the damage had largely been done. My friends at this point had few Latino’s in its ranks. My closest friend was half Chinese and half Mexican and one of my other friends was actually Spanish and not Mexican (yea, there’s actually a difference). I found myself very uncomfortable at events where there were many Mexicans. Their dress, their behavior, the culture of Mexicans in the Central Valley as a whole seemed so foreign to me that i no longer felt i was actually Mexican. I was immeasurably more comfortable hanging out with white families that i began to associate myself with white culture.
I began to meet other “white washed” kids my age. Not all of them were Mexican. One of my friends who was African American said she had experienced similar feelings from the Black community. We connected on this shared feeling of isolation from our own communities and, instead, found brother and sisterhood in the white community. She later became my best friend of all time.
By the end of high school, my feelings had evolved to a point where i was no longer angry at the Mexican community but, instead, i felt sorry for them. Not in a condescending way, mind you. I felt sorry that they seemed so negative towards those who tried to move beyond their own stereotypes of what it was to be Mexican. I felt that they were handicapping themselves from greater success and that being Mexican wasn’t about whether or not you lived in North Side or lived near the poverty line. I felt that being Mexican was about identifying with a culture and appreciating a heritage. Through that, not through your family’s socio-economic status, made you part of the Mexican community.
My next post will focus on my young adult and professional life in the San Francisco Bay Area as i attended college and worked and how my outlook and experiences further evolved.