I still remember my Chicano (sometimes written Xicano) studies classes in school. Even with my name, more “Mexican” or “Spanish” than many, I was still the lightest skinned in the class. More mocha latte, my classmate said, then corrected himself, no just latte, no mocha. My Spanish speaking skills were marginal, my Spanglish ok at best.
But what if I became one of these flag-waving Xicanas? I would feel like an imposter next to my cousins, the ones with the real red hair dye, penciled eyebrows, flashy nails. Man, some of them have tattoos. Real tattoos! I’ve never had an interest that lasted long enough to permanently display it on my body, so I don’t have any. Tattoos, that is.
I was an imposter with the white people too. “Wow, this cole slaw is delicious! I just love miracle whip!” (My mind goes back to the words “kool”–pr. COAL– in Dutch, meaning cabbage, and “sla” meaning salad. I’m sure they’re German in origin too, but I learned Dutch first. End of digression…)
Anyway, I felt about as Xicana as the white board, which may have been produced in Mexico, but has come so far from its ancestral heritage as the man sweeping his DryErase eraser across it now…I think there must be carcinogens in the dust, but what do I know? I know digression.
I finally met a lot of people like me– brown haired people who dressed in khakis, tanned easier than most, and were verbose and brave. I’m only verbose on the page. In person, it is hard for me to gather my thoughts in the face of the chaos and craziness of the day.
Once I realized myself I realized I could be braver, could be stronger, be confident in me, not a paddy or a chola but someone in between who may be was not defined by race at all. I lived like any Californian. Enchiladas on Sunday nights, corned beef and cabbage on Tuesday. Spaghetti, burritos, or tacos most nights of the week.
I’ve gone to live around the world where no one seeks to ask me anymore, “What are you?” but “Who are you?”. My heritage is definitely part of who I am, but my soul strives outside being any color, any age, any profession.
As Popeye says, “I yam who I yam.”
I like me a lot.