I have always found myself between two worlds, not always belonging in either, but always fortunate to have both.
I grew up in Mexico City with an American mother and a Mexican father. Amongst my friends at home, I was always the gringa which, depending on the day, seemed mildly offensive.
In Mexico we have a strong love/hate relationship with the Unites States where we loathe our richer neighbor, but still think Americans are better than us (see our tradition of Malinchismo, an expression used to describe so-called disloyal Mexicans with a preference for all things foreign).
Back home I am always called out for being the American, or la güera (the blonde), something that always made me uncomfortable. Here in the US I find myself constantly defending my Mexican half or trying to prove that I am actually Mexican. I am pretty much as blond or as white as it gets, and many people refuse to believe that I could possibly be Latina. Perhaps I could be from Argentina or Spain, they say, but never from Mexico.
I wouldn’t change growing up in Mexico for anything in the world, but I wouldn’t change the opportunity I have had to be in the US either. I am deeply attached to both places, but don’t always know where—or if—I belong.
Today I am writing this from a small apartment in Brooklyn, asking myself how it’s been four years since I moved to New York, questioning if this is my new home and wondering when (or if) I will ever go back to Mexico for good.
Like most everyone in the United States, my American lineage did not start here: I come from a family of migrants. My great grandparents came on ships from Sweden, checked in at Ellis Island, and settled in the Midwest. Two generations later my mother was trying to make it as a dancer in New York City and, at 21, she went on a trip to Mexico seeking adventure. There she fell in love with the country and my father. Forty-five years later, she’s still in Mexico. Perhaps not coincidentally, at 21, I left Mexico for an education in the United States.
My father, more of a nomad, is a musician who, at almost 70, still has not truly settled down. He has lived his life moving between Mexico, the US, and Europe, and in the past two decades from state-to-state in Mexico, wherever his music has taken him.
My situation is not extraordinary; on the contrary, having been born into both worlds, many things have come easily, mainly because I hold two passports that make the bureaucratic side of moving from one place to another fairly simple. But growing up in a developing country that shares a border with the United States has allowed me to witness the consequences of a society where migration is part of the culture, where many children grow up without parents who have left to work in the United States. On the other hand, living in the US has given me the chance to see what it is people come here for.
Being away from home and leaving what you know is not easy; the decision to leave one’s home is never simple. I’ve spent the past few years with one foot back in Mexico and the other trying to find ground for a new home. Knowing that I can go back—or at least visit—gives me comfort, but not everyone has the privilege of a passport or a visa.
People migrate for all sorts of reasons, for a career, for love, for money, for an education. Whatever the reason, the desire to improve quality of life is always the underlying factor. Estimates indicate that 190 million people, or 3% of the world’s population, live outside their country of birth. When numbers get thrown at us, we easily detach them from the idea that each one of those numbers is a person.
Then … words get thrown around: immigrant, legal, illegal, undocumented, paperless, alien, foreigner, policy, wall, fence, border…
And in the mix of things, it becomes easy to forget that each immigrant has a name, a face, and a story. My new blog, Finding Home, aims to humanize the immigration debate. Stay tuned…
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