Being Mexican American in Latin America

Read all the exciting things our scholars have been up to!

Being Mexican American in Latin America

For those of you who do not know me I am a proud Mexican Womxn. Both my parents immigrated to the United States as kids. All my life I have struggled with my identity. There is a saying amongst different cultures and mostly Latino cultures: “Ni de aqui, ni de alla” which translates to “neither here nor there”. I always felt as though I did not belong in either worlds as a Mexican or as an “American”. Growing up I did not fill the expectations other Mexicans had of me:

  1. I did not speak Spanish
  2. I was not born in Mexico
  3. I was Americanized  

Conclusion: I was not Mexican enough.

However, I did not exactly fit in as an American:

  1. My skin is brown
  2. My parents were not born here
  3. I am Mexican

Conclusion: I was not American enough.

Both my identities demanded 100% of me. I wanted to travel the world to become more self-aware but also to educate myself on different cultures. I have enjoyed my time abroad especially here in Costa Rica. But, I continue to struggle with my identity.

I hoped that studying abroad in a Spanish speaking country would help improve my language skills. Never would I have thought that I would feel less than capable. Since entering college I have become more aware of my identity and realized that I did not need anybody to define whether I was Mexican or american enough. However, since I have been here in Costa Rica I have felt as though I need to explain my own identity to others.

At first people here think I am from Costa Rica, but the second I tell them I am from the United States they assume that I am uncultured and unable to understand my own native tongue. And then I explain to them “I am Mexican”, “yes I speak Spanish, no not perfectly”, “No I do not have an accent”, “No I was not born in Mexico but my parents were”, “yes both of them are Mexican”. All of a sudden my identity becomes an anomaly.

On March 1st, 2019 my program went to a police precinct in order to complete a part of the immigration process. The man who filled out of paperwork asked me where my parents were from I said Mexico. He then asked me if I wore glasses and I could not hear his question, he assumed I did not understand Spanish. He then said “hablas muy mal español por ser Mexicana”, translated to “you speak really bad Spanish for a Mexican”. I was shocked; this was the first rude encounter I had found myself in since coming to Costa Rica. Maintaining my Spanish throughout my whole life has been challenging, since growing up my surroundings were English dominated.

I have found myself afraid of speaking to Costa Ricans because I am afraid of being judged and confined to a certain image, an image that suggests I am not good enough. Even here I am not as Mexican as international women from Mexico and I am not as American as my peers. My ethnicity and my nationality seem to always be in conflict when they are both a part of who I am. I am still trying to understand how both identities fit in my study abroad experience. I hope that by the end of the semester I will not need to explain my roots to anyone but myself.

-Remember your roots.