I was born and raised in the US and, like millions of people here, I come from a Mexican heritage. Though I’ll admit, I do feel more American and identify less with my Mexican heritage.
My experience with my Mexican heritage involves making tamales with my family for Christmas (although I wasn’t much a fan of tamales at first). And one of my favorite memories was making tortillas with my maternal grandma.
I know basic Spanish but can’t carry much of a conversation with my remaining grandparent. Both my parents speak Spanish but they only taught me English growing up. I remember the first time I was judged for not being taught Spanish by my parents. (Yes, you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t – from both sides.)
Pretty much most of what I learned about being Mexican came from meeting other Latinx people and taking Spanish class. Even schools skim over Mexican involvement in US history. Cesar Chavez can be covered in just a chapter.
Luckily, I can turn to my family to find out about their experiences of being Mexicans in this country, as well as how they came here. I once did an oral project for a college history course and I interviewed my paternal grandpa. He came to the US with his family at 12 years old and was able to get his citizenship while he was serving in the army during the Korean War.
I recently read Macho! by Victor Villaseñor. I love reading his books because his characters are strong and complex. He also writes with so much passion. A lot of his stories are about his family and his own experiences (highly recommend Rain of Gold, Thirteen Senses and Burro Genius).
Macho! was about a boy who decided to come to California to work the fields, with hope of making money to help take care of his family back in Mexico. Think, the Mexican version of The Grapes of Wrath. It took place at the height of Cesar Chavez’s movement to unionize the field workers. I was in awe of what those men went through to try to make a better life for themselves.
It reminded me of hearing about how my grandma did everything she could to come to the states because otherwise, she would’ve been stuck living in a poor ranch in Mexico.
It also made me think. With the presidential election coming up later this year, one of the major topics that gets covered is immigration. What do we do with illegal immigrants?
This topic is more nuanced than we give it credit for. There are many ways to think about the situation and on top of that, there are many situations within immigration.
I think it would help to learn more about the Mexican experience of coming to this country in order to, in the very least, appreciate the complexity of the problem. There should even be more information about the experiences of other minorities as well, like the Chinese (who disappear from U.S. History even more).
I’ll even admit, I don’t know what to think about immigration, and wouldn’t know where to start. (But perhaps going to each party’s policy page will be a first step.) Not to mention, there’s just an overload of information and opinions on both sides.
See, I am your average American in more ways than one.
Do you identify with your heritage at all? What have you learned about your family’s experiences? Any good books you’ve read that made you think more about where you come from? Any thoughts on immigration? Do you prefer Cool Whip or whipped cream?