A Starbucks Story
One day after class I decided to visit the Starbucks Reserve Roastery here in Milan with a few classmates. We stared in awe of the giant roasting machine in the middle of the store. There was one area just for food and pastries. The other area was purely for the baristas to create magic. I gather up the courage to finally use my basic Italian skills. I place my order the best I could. After I finish, the barista asks me, “Di dove sei?” / “Where are you from?” I tell him I’m from America, from Texas. He then switches to English and says,
“But like where are you from?”
I was a little caught off guard but I still answered by telling him my parents were both from Mexico. He seemed to have been satisfied with the answer. I finally gave him an explanation for my caramel colored skin and jet black hair.
I know he meant no harm in his comment but it got me thinking. In class, we watched a TedTalk about single stories. Single stories are basically stereotypes; they are often detrimental to the subjects. I put myself in their shoes. He must have had this stereotype of American tourists that I did not fit. This gives another one of my encounters in Milan thus far some context. For instance, when asking for the price of a tour of the Duomo, the man in charge of the booth proceeded to list the prices in Spanish. Similar interactions happen back in the United States at work when customers think I cannot speak English.
Was I not considered American enough? Even here? This isn’t the first time I have asked myself this question. Throughout high school and my first two years of college, I pondered this question in instances like this. I’ve come to accept the fact I can’t change the initial perceptions of me but I can embrace my identity as a Mexican – American. In fact, I have met a few other Hispanics here in Milan. Our shared language and culture created an immediate connection between us. Every time I meet someone Hispanic, I no longer feel bad about my previous encounters.