I have a complicated relationship with Mexico. I am half Mexican, half Nicaraguan, raised in America. My parents met in San Francisco in the 80’s; my father a divorcee originally from Ciudad Juarez and my mom a recent immigrant fleeing a civil war in Nicaragua. As a child if you were to ask me what I was, I would say I was like Pocahontas; because she was brown like me. I was whatever she was, right? I remember being made fun of as a kid, even being called “a dirty Mexican”. And somewhere in my child mind, I started to believe it.
As a teen, my father and I went Ciudad Juarez for a family matter; it was 2003. In case you were living under a rock, I should explain; there was an estimated “1,437 women murdered in Ciudad Juarez between January 21, 1993 and March 8, 2013”. The city was known for this violence, I remember meeting my dad’s side of the family and everyone talking about how bad things were.
Throughout high school, I went on several mission trips to Mexico; with a predominately white Christian youth groups. We drove from Sacramento, CA to Mexicali, Mexico. Driving into Mexicali, I remember comments that others made; everything from- “Mexican boys are soooo cute” to “Why is everything so dirty?” I served as translator; there were several times during these trips where I had an identity conflict. I felt like the poster child for “ni de aqui, ni de aya?” neither from here nor from there. I felt alienated from the other teens I was serving with and at the same time not a part of the community we were there to serve.
Fast forward, to college. In 2009, I decided to live in Mexico for three months. During those three months, I took courses on the History of Mexico and I volunteered for the Collectivo Pro Derechos de la Ninez (Children’s Rights Project) in Guadalajara. It felt like falling in love. I fell in love with the sights of historical colonial buildings. I fell in love with street food and the sounds of acoustic guitars in warm summer air. I fell in love with the sound of summer thunderstorms hitting tile on the outside patio. I fell in love with the kids that I worked with and the families that emigrated from rural Oaxaca to come to the city for work. I began to embrace and love myself, as Mexican. I ended my trip in Mexico City, and there is a plaque in the plaza of tres culturas, (plaza of the three cultures) recalling the conquest of Tlatelolco, that reads, "Neither a victory nor a defeat, but the painful moment of birth of the Mexico of today, of a race of Mestizos". And this is exactly, how I have felt since that journey; I felt country-less, in exile- neither American nor Mexican. I am someone altogether new, a part of a culture that is ever evolving, a Mestizo culture. This culture knows no borders and abides within people; setting up home wherever it is carried like nomads.
After my time in Mexico, I came to U.S. with a different vantage point. It was like I pulled back the current I could see the Wizard of Oz. I could see whenever people spoke in generalities about Mexico or Mexicans, I saw the scapegoating, I saw the fear or xenophobia. I could see plain as day this nostalgia for a past where Mexicans and Mexican Americans are in the background, and a fear of the new culture, this fear of the unknown future, a future that is female and Latina. I believe that the United States has not accepted its multi-faceted and complex identity but has tried to make it two-dimensional. In the 2016 election cycle, there was rhetoric that, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” Donald Trump, speech, June 16, 2015
In saying that Mexico sends people to the U.S. it is implying that there is no personal agency, it is as if individuals do not have the power to decide to go North because that is what is necessary to survive. It is as if Mexicans have not been in the United States for centuries, it attempts to erase the history and struggle. My heart breaks for the young Latinas who overhear this poison while their mamas watch the news. If I could go back, I would tell my younger self; this talk has nothing to do with you. This about power and fear. You are the backbone of this country, you are amazing and the people that talk this way have no idea, what you are about. For me resistance is continuing time and time again to exist in the fullness of what I am, to be multi-faceted and in my existence to show others they have the freedom to exist too.