I’ve had several moments in my life so far that I’ve had to overcome the stereotype of being hispanic. I’ve had several moments in my life where I had to hear what people have had to say about me, just because I’m Mexican, and just because I may be different from others. Most people aren’t too quick on making judgements. Something that would probably be due to the fact that I don’t give off the whole “I’m Mexican” vibe. Although, as soon as people around me find out what my last name is and where I come from, their whole attitude towards me changes. I can’t say that I remember the first time this might have started happening. There might have been several race stereotypes about me that I was totally unaware of. I can only think back to second grade; that’s when I first started noticing.
I vividly remember my mother constantly putting my hair into tight braids when I was younger. Each braid intertwined with strands of ribbon. I remember my seven-year-old self looking into the mirror; I was looking at the braids in my hair and smiling. I remembered how proud I was to be wearing these braids to school. I couldn’t wait to get to school to show them off. Walking around school, I would, from time to time, hear some people’s comments. Some were incomprehensible, and others were crystal clear.
“What’s that in your hair, you paisa?” The older kids at school would say, even though the oldest kids were only in 5th grade. Confused, I didn’t answer, nor did I pay attention to whoever could have said that.
“Paisa?” I would think to myself; what does that even mean? (It wasn’t until later that I finally found out what that meant; it’s something you say to a hispanic person to try and offend them and try to make them feel bad about themselves)
Although not having a complete understanding of what people’s comments were at that time, I understood enough to get that people clearly weren’t as excited about my braids as I was.
Once I got a little older, what other’s had to say about me became a little more clear. I’ve had several other experiences in the past, but this particular memory will stay with me forever. I was in the sixth grade, so I was roughly twelve years old. It was nearly Christmas Time, so a couple of friends of mine decided that secret santa was something that we should do that year. We went throught the whole routine, and I ended of getting someone that I didn’t know as well as my other friends. In desperation, I asked some of her closer friends to advice me on gifts. Although her friends did give a few helpful tips, I later found out she ended up telling my person that I was her secret santa. It wasn’t until a few days later that I happened to overhear a conversation between the two of them.
“So do you really think that she got me for secret santa?” My ‘person’ said, annoyance in her voice.
“Yeah, she was asking for present ideas for you a couple days ago.” Her friend said.
“But… I don’t think that she’ll be able to afford all of the things that I want.” Her voice was lowered, as if though she didn’t want anyone to hear her (so much for that). I could sense some sort of pitiness in her voice. As if it were something that she needed to feel towards me; pity.
My eyes widened as the last word left her tongue. My emotions were all over the place. I felt anger. I felt disbelief. I felt as though time had stopped. I felt all these emotions rush into me as I was trying to walk away from that entire conversation.
I don’t expect everybody’s comments or judgements about me to change anytime soon. So, I’ve learned to deal with it, for the most part. I’ve learned to embrace the fact that I’m not exactly the same as others. I’ve learned to stand up for myself and learn from my past experiences. Before, I felt as though I was vulnerable to other people. Everybody was free to say and do whatever they’ve wanted to. Now, I feel as if though I’ve become stronger. I now have the capability of defending myself, and not letting others take advantage of me. Most importantly, I’ve learned to embrace my inner “paisa.”