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:
- I did not speak Spanish
- I was not born in Mexico
- I was Americanized
Conclusion: I was not Mexican enough.
However, I did not exactly fit in as an American:
- My skin is brown
- My parents were not born here
- 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.