This essay was an essay I wrote for my English class in my first year of college! It is the story of me growing up Chicana. I hope you all enjoy and feel free to leave feedback!
Tears pricked the back of my eyes as I blinked furiously to hold them back and for the first time in my life I truly felt ashamed of my actions. The image of my father’s heartbroken face replaying in my mind a thousand times. The cool breeze hit my bare shoulders and suddenly I felt the urge to run. I ran along the familiar path that lead me to school and quickly locked myself into the bathroom. However, I felt like I no longer was the person I wanted to be. As I looked into the mirror, I was astonished at what the glass reflected. The glass reflected the everyday outside version of Rachel that everyone was used to seeing. There was no difference aside from my red puffy eyes. However, on the inside I was a whirlwind of emotions.
Growing up Mexican American was never easy and although most people were accepting and open towards my family, there was always a noticeable difference. The most obvious one was the color of my skin. I always envied my cousins who got the whiter passing features as they looked down on us who had tan skin. Tan skin was associated with dirtiness and something inferior. It was rare, growing up, seeing a Latina who had tan skin. Latinas were expected to be fair skinned and have curves in all the right places, such as Jennifer Lopez or Sofia Vergara. As a young girl, I could not find a role model who I identified with. In turn it made me have a growing resentment towards who I was. My family was distinguished from all our other neighbors because we were the only ones who spoke Spanish and looked Hispanic. Growing up I never once saw another little girl or boy who had the same skin tone as mine. As a child, I generally never paid attention and the other children did not as well. That didn’t mean that there were not times where I wouldn’t notice subtle comments towards my skin color. One of the most vivid memories was a day after school where my brothers and I were playing soccer in front of our house. Another little boy joined us and shortly after his mother came out and yelled at him to get away from the little brown kids who can’t speak English. Those were one of the times where I remember feeling so confused. I remember going home that night and scrubbing my skin thinking I could wash away my melanin. My family continues to be the only Hispanic family in our neighborhood. Even today it amazes me how people will judge you because of the color of your skin and not because who you are. As a little girl who just wanted to fit in, I did all I could to try to fit in. I avoided the sun so my skin wouldn’t get darker. I begged my mom to buy me clothes where all my classmates bought them even though they were expensive. I refused to speak Spanish at school and never told my parents about Open House or events simply because I did not want anyone knowing I was Mexican. It was always the same questions: Can you speak English? Do you need these documents in Spanish? People thought my skin color was the definition of my intelligence and were surprised when I excelled in school. My parents spoke very little English and could not help me with much besides basic math and reading. My dad dropped out of college to work with his dad to provide for their family. My grandma laughed at my mother when she mentioned college and told her to find a good man to marry. This never stopped them from seeking the help I needed. My mother encouraged me to work hard and continue my education. She would hire tutors and drop me off at workshops where there were people who could assist me. I was always the top reader in my class. I worked and studied hard to prove myself and defy the stereotypes of my heritage. It was always a bit embarrassing to be the only brown student in my AP classes and people often questioned if I was smart enough to be in the class. However, I was only ashamed to be myself when I was at school. I had two different personas. At school I was a quiet, reserved, and hardworking student who kept to herself. I always surrounded myself with my small circle of friends and never tried to go out and really discover who I was. At home, however, it was like life took a one hundred and eighty degree turn. I was full of life, adventurous, and couldn’t stop talking. My dad called me his cabrita loca or wild stallion. I embraced my culture when we drove an hour north and arrived in Los Angeles. There my family would be waiting with bright smiles and home cooked meals. The language of Spanish was my wonderful secret. It was the language of my family, of my most treasured moments, of my culture and who I was. The nights where my mother and I would discuss my day and she would tell me fairytales and her childhood days. The nights where my father would pull up at night and I would sit on his knee and he would sing to me and we would discuss soccer. At family parties, I would converse with my grandparents, aunts, and cousins while we sat around eating. When the night rolled around, I would wait with my cousins and giggle as my aunts poured us atole. My private life versus my public life were complete opposites. I longed for weekend where I could be free and escape into my little paradise. However, the moment I was dropped off at school, I transformed into the quiet and reserved girl who always responded with, “Nothing interesting,” when I was asked about my weekend.
Losing yourself can be easy when you don’t value who you are and where you come from. I learned a lesson that day I hurt my father. I thought I knew what shame was. I thought
shame was being not brining your parents to Open House or refusing to speak Spanish. I was completely wrong; shame was asking your father to drop you off two blocks away from school because you did not want people seeing him with you. Shame was you making a terrible excuse as to why you wanted him to drop you off there and seeing the hurt look on his face when he realized the real reason. I will never forget that look. It was look of confusion, hurt, and an immense sadness. I felt as if I was suffocating when I saw that look. I knew I had hurt my father by denying who I was. It took me a while to learn to love myself and appreciate my culture. It wasn’t until about last year when I really learned to really embrace who I was. I was no longer ashamed of my skin color. Today, I continue to strive to accept myself and learn more about my language. I speak Spanish as much as I can and it has helped me at work and the hospital where I volunteer at. It has opened doors and has allowed me to touch the hearts of others. I embrace this country and am proud to be American because America has given me much more than I could ever have growing up in Mexico. I can continue onto higher education and work towards my goals. It took me a long time to realize that I can be proud of being American and Mexican. I can love America and appreciate what it has given me but I can also criticize where it has failed to support Mexican Americans. It saddens me to think Latinxs are forced into choosing one side or the other when it is time we embrace who we are. There is no need to be one or the other. Instead, we are the driving force for a more united and diverse America. We are the voice for our parents and ancestors. We are the example for the younger generation. We should not be ashamed of who we are because these experiences help one grow into a stronger person. Our differences are what has influenced history, shaped the face of this Earth, and gives every one of us a unique identity that no one else has.