Confessions of a Third Generation Latino: Common Space
Posted by Roobs on June 15, 2010
This is the fifth and second-to-last post in my series. The last post focused on my time in college. This post transitions my views into the real world.
While still at Cal, I tried to spend my last years studying and preparing for my graduation but i still found myself involved in the struggle between my identity as a Latino but struggle to find a place where other Latinos would also accept me as part of their community. But I didn’t feel as alone as i once had.
After reading so far into this blog, you may feel as if i beleive their are only two faces of the Latino community. Those in my position and those not. However, this would ignore the many shades in between.
Both while at Cal and after graduating, i was working for a law firm in a nearby city. The supervisor there was a very attractive older Mexican woman who, like me, was third generation. However, unlike me (and for whatever reason) she had gone a route that i very well could have myself. Her attitude towards the Latino community was actually one of annoyance and disdain. She felt that with her education and skill-set that she had actually surpassed what being Mexican was all about.
It’s interesting to think about because in order for her to feel as she did, she accepted the basic premise of “being Mexican” that i heartedly deny. This is that there is a specific way to “be Mexican”: That Mexicans are low skill, low salary earning people with little hope of potential. Any advancement by a Mexican was not actually an improvement of he or she as a Mexican but, instead, a disregard of their Mexican self in place of a White-American self.
And this view played out in the eyes of other Latinos. For example, when i would return to Visalia to visit family or other area where there was a predominate Latino population, i found myself actually on the defensive. As with my time in elementary and middle school, i was defending my current status as a soon-to-be graduate of Cal.
Im sure many Latinos who will read this will be familiar with this scenario. Not just of a college graduate, but any success by a Latino being met with playful and non-playful sarcasm:
-“I got a promotion”
-“So what, you think your better than me?”
-“I just graduated”
-“What, you think youre special?”
Because i had proven myself to be able to complete the education curriculum from grade school to college, other Latinos often would suggest i thought i was better than them. Now, of course, having met my supervisor can say that their concerns are not so ridiculously out of touch with reality. But the issue again becomes on whether or not they are going to take that view for what it is; that success means to leave the Latino community behind; or to embrace the idea that success is the advancement of the individual and not a replacement of that individuals personal identity or membership in a community.
As my final college years began to pass by, I started to get more involved in state and national politics volunteering and working for candidate campaigns and political parties in addition to my time at school. Through this mesh of interactions, i cam across more and more Latinos in leadership positions, not just in their communities, but state and nationwide. I learned of the struggle they shared to connect with members of their own community. As a leader in the Latino community, they told me that a big issue they tackle with is to improve the education opportunity of young Latinos, especially young males who often times will turn to a life in street gangs; especially when they come from a tough background in large cities.
Through them, I learned the struggle between the two ideas of thought in our community was much more common and work needed to be done to bridge between them.
After graduating from Cal and leaving the Central Valley; where the multiple faces of who I was seemed so incompatible with one another, I was in dire need of some kind of synthesizing agent; a way to find multiple groups of individuals who could interact and form a sense of identity that was not solely unique to them individually but, instead, blended into one, the same way I have attempted blend my multiple identities.
It was here at Berkeley and in San Francisco where I first discovered what was meant by diversity and common space. As a newly out and young gay man, San Francisco posed an exciting local. I truly loved and admired the many neighborhoods of the city and was pleasantly surprised how different groups were present in each. The areas I found of greatest interest were The Mission, The Castro and Noe Valley. Each neighborhood seemed fundamentally different yet pleasantly similar.
In the Mission, what was once a ghetto of the Latino community was becoming a hipster heaven with new developments appearing and young professionals living pleasantly alongside their neighbors who may or may not have been on food stamps. In the LGBT neighborhood of San Francisco – the Castro, there were drag queens having coffee at the local Starbucks as a mom rolled up with a stroller and a newborn to get her morning fix. And in Noe Valley, a middle class family-oriented neighborhood shared borders with the other two and blended seamlessly into each and was unashamed to cross over. Families from Noe Valley went into the Castro for lunch and then went shopping for unique items in the Mission. LGBT went from the Castro into the Mission for good Mexican food and then met friends who were making dinner in Noe Valley.
Each neighborhood represented some part of what i identified with and residents were unafraid to share their borders, in essence, to become one large common community.
I wanted to find a version of common space within the Latino community; a way in which the multiple identities of each generation of Latino can interact and and create a unifying agent from which we all identify.
The next post will be the final post of my series “Confessions of a Third Generation Latino”.