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Tales of a Pale Chicana | Part One

Chi·ca·na

/CHiˈkänə,SHi-/  noun US noun: Chicana; plural noun: Chicanas
(in North America) a woman or girl of Mexican origin or descent.

Racism happens everyday, whether you want to acknowledge it or not, and it doesn't have to be between two different races often times it happens within your own race. Sometimes you don't even realize it because they're a series of microagressions. Sometimes I would wonder why it happens if everyone knows it's not okay? As an adult I've come to realize that as humans we fear the unkown, and that most of the racism is born out of fear.

From a Crowded House to a Pink Trailer

Growing up we moved around a lot, it was mostly because my mom would get different opportunities. My earliest memory of where we lived was in The Glen. At the time I didn't know it was a bad neighborhood in San Antonio, all I knew was that I lived with my grandma and my tias, and my best friends were the next door neighbors. An African American girl, and a Hispanic boy, we were notorius for sneaking into our older neighbors back yard and jump on the trampoline they had for their grandkids. When I would go to school I remember hanging out with the girl, and the other girls in my class would ask me why did I hang out with her? I would always tell them because she's cool and she lives down the street. I was in kindergarten so I never really thought anything of it. If you don't know San Antonio is not really known for their diversity.

Later on we moved to Kirby, a little town outside the San Antonio City limits, in a pink trailer with biological father's mom. The neighborhood was all Hispanic. That's where I learned to skate, had my first dog, and learned that not all white people were rich and lived in big houses. In a little house in our backyard lived a skinny white lady named Cici, I remember her to always be happy but kind of jittery. I'm not really sure how that arrangement came to be, my biological father's family migrated here from Mexico and didn't speak English, and my bio dad's English was very broken. 

As I got older I realized that you can tell when someone is from San Antonio and they've never left it. They have an accent, a really chicano accent, but don't speak spanish very well because they're already 3rd or 4th generation mexican american.

The Great Escape

When my mom escaped San Antonio, and I say escaped because my bio dad wouldn't let her leave him or the city, she came to Houston it was without my sister and I. She took my littlest sisters, the twins, because that's the only way my bio dad would let her go. He knew that she'd have to come back for us eventually. 

During that time my grandma had moved to Dover in Converse, she was the only one we were allowed to see because she would take care of us and take us to school. That was the only time I talked to my mom, when my grandma would call her. I remember feeling like my mom abandoned us, and was really angry with her for it. I just was too little to realize she would call us often, my bio dad just would let her speak to us.

Don't ask me how my Spanish is so broken though, because during this time I had aunts & uncles come from Mexico that only spoke Spanish. I would sit in my bio dad's Mexican restaurant,where  I learned how to make tortillas, and would even miss school to work on a taco truck with him. I understand it perfectly though but I get too nervous and embarrassed when I speak it because I have an American accent and I'm usually speaking to native Spanish speakers.


How I got to Houston

I got off the school bus on my last day of school excited to get home but I knew I had to wait for my bio dad's sister to pick me up like she always does. What I thought was her truck pulled up and I got inside, only it wasn't her. It was my Grandma, but I think nothing of it because it was normal for her to pick me up sometimes. She asks me if I know where my sister is, I say yes she's in the big purple house in Sunrise. It was an in home day care that was well known in the neighborhood because it was bright purple.

We got there and I remember her saying she was only letting my sister come with us because I was there. We get to my grandma's house, I was excited to be there because I remember it being sometime that we had stayed with her. Later on in the evening there's a really loud bang on the door and my grandma tells us to go hide under the bed and not to come out for any reason. It's my bio dad all angry and upset because he thought we were there, and we weren't supposed to be. He checks everywhere except under her bed, eventually he leaves and we're free. 

My grandma later takes us to my aunt's apartment, a place we had only been to maybe twice in the time since my mom went to Houston. We don't go inside her house and wait in the parking lot. Then out of no where my mom pops out of a truck. I couldn't believe it. I remember her wearing a white shirt and the biggest smile on her face. It was one of the happiest days of my life. We made the 3 hour drive to Houston and I never gave it a second thought. 


The Odd-Girl Out 

Where we lived in Houston everybody, and I mean everybody spoke Spanish. The lady that took care of us, my moms boyfriend at the time, my mom even. It was the first time in my life that it was hard to make friends. Only because I didn't look like any of them. I understood what everyone would say about me but I could never defend myself in Spanish and they would laugh at me when I responded in English. It never stopped them to know that I understood though. Sometimes I would pretend I didn't know just so they'd leave me alone.

It was here in Houston that I learned not everybody was Mexican. If you call a Salvadorean a Mexican they'll act like you slapped them and vice versa. Being third generation on my moms side I didn't know what it was like to have such pride in the country that you came from. My grandma did her best to assimilate, and I feel like my mom did too. When you're an immigrant I feel like the general notion going through life is to not rock the boat, and do your best to not stand out so no one notices us and asks questions.

 When I did good in school the teachers would be surprised. When I read at a 10th grade level in 6th grade, no one could believe it. I remember being asked by a teacher once if my dad was white.


Becoming Mexican

Have you ever heard the phrase "Fake it till yo make it." well that's exactly what I did. I would try to stay outside and in the sun as long as possible to get some kind of a tan, but let me tell you it was THE HARDEST thing in the world. I learned how to say little things in spanish perfectly but otherwise just nodded my head and laughed at everything. 

When I got to High School none of it mattered. In middle school I saw the most glorious opportunity. A chance to apply to Alief Early College High School. A high school that would give me the opportunity to graduate with an Associates degree. What would make my mom happier? This is what she wanted for me. This is what she wanted to do herself, go to college, but it was always a battle for her to get there. When I was accepted, I was proud that all of my nerdiness had paid off. 

Alief was and still is the most blended community I have ever lived in. My high school was no different. Houston was also the first time I had ever met an Asian, when I lived in San Antonio I had no idea they existed. Everybody hung out with everybody, and it was cool. There was no fighting, there was a little drama though I mean come on a school with only 98 students it becomes kind of like a small town. Yet I found myself hanging with girls that were Hispanic. That had become my comfort zone, I strayed from time to time but I always found my way back. 


Now that I see all the injustice in today's society, how Hispanics are all lumped together for things that people somehow think that we do, we're all illegal, and job snatchers, we all come here and live off the system, we all can't speak English, and it's okay to say these things because who's going to stick up for us? We don't have our own Martin Luther King, because we're all brought up with the mentality that it's not okay to rock the boat. Somewhere down the line we do have a relative that migrated here for a better life and that mentality was passed down from generation to generation. I have a sense of pride in where my family came from, I can't live without the food either, and I am infuriated by what is said about my people.

Until I myself decided that I wanted to further my education,and that I didn't want to be stuck in a seemingly endless cycle of poverty was when it felt like I made some kind of progress. No one told me, other than my family, that I was going to go to college and that whatever I dreamed I could be I would be it, if I worked hard enough. 
It is my hope that Jeff & I raise a culturally aware daughter. I want her to identify with both sides of herself. the Guatemalan & the Mexican. I want her to be herself, and not feel like she has to conform to fit it. I want her to know that it's okay to stand out, because she was never meant to fit in.