I was raised in an English speaking home. My great-grandfather changed our last name from Molinedo to Mollindo to “Americanize” it. The given names of my immediate family members include Norma Jane, Donald Lee (I, II, and soon III), Elaine Roxanne, and Amanda Leann, none of which sound very Hispanic. Coming from Yuma, I’ve always felt like my identity is in a fuzzy grey area between Mexican-American and just plain American. I’ve been scoffed at by Spanish speakers for not being able to help them because of our language barrier. I’ve had to tell countless people that no, I am not white (or Asian), and yes, my olive-brown skin, thick black hair, and dark brown eyes do in fact indicate my Hispanic heritage.
My family wanted me to be successful, and to them, that meant teaching me to value an education over traditional domestic roles, and strangely enough, not teaching me Spanish. One time I asked my grandpa why he didn’t pass on a language that he knew so well to his children, and he explained that when he was growing up, he was criticized for speaking primarily Spanish, and he saw value in abandoning the language almost entirely. Only until he began working in agriculture as a salesman did he need to pick up Spanish again, and he hoped none of his children would need to do the same to get by.
Sometimes I am ashamed of my lack of familiarity with hispanic culture because I believe being Mexican-American is an important part of my identity. Growing up in Yuma, I was constantly exposed to it, but often times as an intimate observer. Although I’ve been accused of “not really being Mexican”, I definitely don’t identify with any other ethnicity more closely. Its weird being in this in-between. It’s not a big problem in my life, and I’ve never faced too much adversity for it, but sometimes I do wish I could fit in. I also wish it didn’t matter, and I could just go on being a person without others playing racial guessing games with me.
All in all, I think it’s kind of silly how much attention we pay people for looking or acting a certain way and sometimes hardly focusing on who they are or what they’ve achieved. Its sad that my grandfather and his father felt like they needed to deny their culture in order to blend in with society, and It’s fascinating that I’ve seen the inverse of that.