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Assumed Incompetence

“Are you Mexican?” That’s typically the first thing people ask me when they see my tanned copper complexion when I first get to know someone. I despise the stereotypes that come along with being Mexican. But what bothers me most, is that I’m actually not Mexican at all. My dark skin instantly labels me as being Mexican, and the stereotypes come attached with it. Our society is ignorant and doesn’t want to see that Spanish speaking countries extends to many countries in Central and Southern America, as well as Spain. That accounts to 20 other countries aside from Mexico that has an official language of Spanish. Often times I find it easier to accept that I’m Mexican instead of having to explain to the people I meet that I’m Peruvian. When I tell them, the response I typically get is, “Peru?” and I respond back in an insecure way and say, “Yeah, Peru, some country in South America.”


My parents, immigrants from Peru, moved here from the grim environment in Peru  and that’s when my brother and I were born. I didn’t know how to speak the tongue that other kids around me were mumbling about, but I was able to pick up on a few words when I was in preschool. The the thing I find odd is, I don’t remember when I learned to speak, write, read, and grasp the English language. Often times, when I think back, it feels as if I knew the language all my life. I found many problems with Spanish being my first language. When enrolling to school, they question what your first language is as well as the language that you prefer that you speak at home. Of course, my parents checked those boxes, but I feel that those boxes were instant indicators that I would be needing help in my academics. Sometimes I want to believe that those boxes damaged my potential in school. It’s assumed that if you speak Spanish, you’re slow, a mind not capable of learning in the normal class environment. Most of the classes I was put into in elementary school consisted of the basic curriculum for English learners, despite being capable of so much more. Because the majority of students who don’t know English as a first language are Mexican, it was assumed that I would be just like them, incompetent in learning or going to college.


In middle school, a spark flickered in the network of neurons in my brain. My parents have constantly informed me the importance of education for a future, something that most hispanic/latino families don’t come to realize. Most are told that they have to finish school quickly to get a job, instead of harnessing their children toward an educational path that would bring them success. I surpassed many students in middle school, constantly raising my hand, getting  the highest scores in tests, and producing projects that were above the  teacher’s standards. I surpassed those who were in the normal and advanced classes in elementary school. I surpassed the expectations of those labels the boxes my parents checked off. Now in highschool, I take advanced placement classes and honors classes and do an exemplary job in school work. I broke the supposed standards that people placed on me because of my skin color, and now, when someone asks me, “Are you Mexican?”,  I confidently respond and tell them, “No, I’m Peruvian.”  

 




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