Nope, not the kind you run, but the kind you are.  Brace yourselves, it’s a long one!

This month is Hispanic Heritage month.  Guatemala (and many other Central American countries) and Mexico celebrate their Independence Days this month.  Check out this post  http://latinaish.com/2010/09/16/celebrate-hispanic-heritage-month/ from my new friend on fun ways to celebrate Hispanic Heritage (anything that involves eating and/or music is always fun in my opinion!).  Tonight the family is going to check out a Family Fun Night: Celebrating Mexican Independence Day, just a few blocks from our house.  Anssel is always funny when it comes to anything Mexican though.  He’s always like, “I’m not Mexican! Why would I want to celebrate/do that?”  Of course he never protests when it comes to eating Mexican food though…. :-)

I can see and understand his stance though.  With the bigger and more populated Mexico just right next door, many Americans think anyone from south of the US border is Mexican.  Poor people from Central America who get labeled as being Mexican, just because they speak Spanish and may have the same “tan”!  (For an excellent, hilarious movie, you have to check out “A Day Without a Mexican”. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0377744/ It is hilarious, but also ironically true.)  The funny thing though, is that many people don’t think Anssel is Latino, especially not Guatemalan!  Even Latinos and other Guatemalans think this and have no qualms about saying it either.  Granted, he is taller than most Chapines (nickname for Guatemalans) and has no typical Guatemalan indigenous features to him at all.  He gets “oh, I thought you were Indian” a lot, even from Indians, which we both find hilarious (that happened a lot in DC, which was funny because the place is packed with Latinos.)  So whenever we see Indians, I say to him, “hey, su gente” (“your people”).  Even a good Indian friend of ours said she could totally see that.

Then, on the other hand, I get confused with being a Latina all the time.  With a last name like “López” and dark hair, eyes, and “cafe con leche” skin, how could I not be Latina, right?  I used to travel to Central America a lot for work (and for visiting my novio when we were still “dating”) and people always thought I was Latina, but then they’d be a bit bothered/confused when I spoke with an accent or I made mistakes in my grammar, etc.  So then I’d immediately whip out my speech “No soy Latina. Mi Madre es de las Filipinas y mi Padre es Aleman, por eso el color de mi piel, ojos, pelo… Y mi esposo es de Guatemala, por eso el apellido ‘Lopez’.  Entonces puede decir que Mi Corazon es Latina.” :-) (“I’m not Latina. My Mom is from the Philippines and my Dad is German, for that the color of my skin, eyes, hair… And my husband is Guatemalan, for that ‘Lopez’. So I guess you could say My Heart is Latina.”  The response for Latinos and Gringos is always the same, “Ah, that explains it.  You could’ve fooled me!”  Admittedly, it’s kind of nice being a ‘social chameleon’ in some parts of the world and being able to fit in pretty well and not stand out as your stereotypical American.  (Clearly this doesn’t fly for me when I’m in Africa!)

Growing up in Montana, people actually thought I was Native American.  That bugged me too. I, of course, had a time when I wished I was blond-haired and blue-eyed like ‘everyone else’, but Mom and Dad always said, “brown is beautiful”.  It took time to believe that, but they were absolutely right! :-)  It didn’t take long before I became a proud “Ger-pino” (German Filipino).  Now, sometimes I wished I looked even more Filipina because most Filipinos don’t even know I’m half-Filipina unless I say something (of course I can spot a Filipino a mile away, and once they start talking my heart starts to melt.  Makes me think of my Mama every time!).  It’s funny seeing the look on people’s faces when they see me in pictures with my “white/blond” cousins: “Those are your real cousins??” And then saying the same thing when they see me in pics with my Filipino cousins.  One of my biggest regrets (not sure I can even call it a regret because I had no control over it at the time) is that my sister and I were never taught Tagalog (main Filipino language/dialect) or German.  Both languages were spoken by the people in our home growing up, but we were never taught it.  My parents (and Grandma) didn’t have the luxury of all the studies they have out now on bilingualism/multilingualism and how it actually increases cognitive thought and even test scores. They didn’t want to “confuse us” or have us get teased in school.  If only we learned…. I’d be able to speak 4 languages fluently right now!  But we can’t play the “what if” game.

So if you put all of these yummy mixes together, you get our sweet Lydia Angelica.  Our sweet “Guat-Ger-Pino”.  Talk about potential identity crisis! But we hope to raise her appreciating every branch of her racial background and educating her on all of those aspects as well.  Hopefully she will love who she is and where she comes from and can have a greater appreciation for all people, all over the world.  We will be strictly enforcing Spanish in our household (but we’ll make it fun, right?!).  She will have to learn it if she is going to be able to speak to her non-English speaking family members (los Abuelos, in particular).  Plus, being able to fluently speak another language will open up some many opportunities for her that wouldn’t exist without it.

I don’t know about you, but I love this changing face of America. I’m sure there will be many more posts in the future discussing race/language/multiculturalism, etc. as it fascinates me, and as I am a walking, talking social experiment of my own (and am also raising one).  It’s funny how all this ‘multi-cultural’ talk really got a lot of spotlight during the last Presidental election.  Meanwhile all of us ‘mixed bag’ folks were like, “yeah, what’s new?”  Ok, I’m running out of steam. To be continued later… Your thoughts?

Categories: ethnicity, Race | 6 Comments

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6 thoughts on “Race

  1. Señora López

    Thanks for the link!

    My Salvadoran husband is united with your husband on the “I’m not Mexican!” chant. LOL. It is frustrating for non-Mexican Latinos to be automatically categorized as something they’re not by the majority of the population… Just yesterday a classmate came up to my 12 year old son (who looks more like his father than me), and the classmate said, “Are you Mexican?”

    My son said he just said, “No,” in an annoyed tone of voice and didn’t clarify! LOL. I told him to use the opportunity to educate the person next time — but I guess that gets annoying too – having to explain yourself. It’s not something I ever had to deal with so I guess I can’t totally understand what it’s like for him.

    Having the last name “López” is fun for me – especially in doctor’s waiting rooms. They call it out and everyone looks around, trying to find the stereotypical Latina they’re expecting to see – and I stand up. LOL.

    Funny that at one time you wanted blonde hair and blue eyes. I’ve got the blue eyes but my hair is brown. I never wanted blonde hair though – I always wanted my hair and skin darker and my eyes brown — but I guess it’s good I never got my wish because my husband loves my eyes as much as I love his dark almond-shaped “ojos chinos”.

    I think that your daughter and my sons are definitely the changing face of what we see as “race” today. I just finished a book which makes the case that race is completely man-made, that we all came out of Africa – that we are one people. I like that thought. I wish it was more practical to identify myself that way. I can just imagine at the DMV when I renew my license though.

    “Ma’am, you didn’t mark your race?”
    “That’s because race doesn’t exist.”
    “That’s cute … yes, yes, in an ideal world, ma’am – happy, happy, joy, joy and all that. Shall I mark down white?”
    “Well, no, if you must mark down something, let me see… I guess African-American is most accurate here.”

    …lol. Oh well.

  2. Johanna

    Ah yes, brown is beautiful! Children of mixed origins are super cute, too. It’s hard for children to reconcile different cultures and background at times, but adults appreciate it -you know, provided they’re not berated because of it because of political tensions (and I’m not only talking about the US, of course). It’s great that Lydia will get to celebrate her heritage of 3 continents. What a blast!

  3. Jen

    Yes, take it from me. White is boring! Seriously, I think Lydia (and you)are so blessed to have inherited a mix of cultures and languages that make you who you are. In that sense you have an advantage over single race people and maybe a richer life, in some ways. Isn’t is just human nature to want what you don’t have, even once you’ve finally reached that point of self-acceptance (if ever)! I wouldn’t mind having that cafe con leche skin myself. ;)

  4. Cathy S

    What’s funny is that since Anssel was really the first Guatemalan that I’ve met, I look at others and think “hmmm, they don’t look like Anssel so they must not be Guatemalan” :)

  5. Pingback: Tejas « Letters to Lydia

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