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September 04, 2019 - Image 14

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The Michigan Daily

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Wednesday,September 4, 2019 // The Statement


very year in early August, our
mother would haul my siblings
and me into our car in the
stifling heat. The four of us would wait
for hours in long lines at the international
bridge, waiting to cross the border from
Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua into El Paso.
We lived on the Mexican side of our
sprawling binational metropolitan area
and crossed often for groceries and
shopping, so this was a standard routine
for us. When our turn finally came, we
would roll down the windows and sit up
straight, knowing better than to speak
out of turn.
“American,” my brother, sister and
I would say to the border agent, as our
Mexican mother put her green passport
next to our blue ones.
We would spend all day hopping from
store to store, buying No. 2 pencils, tennis
shoes, new backpacks and pencil cases.
Our last stop was always the Walmart
in the Cielo Vista Mall. There, our mom
would go through her usual weekly
grocery list, sometimes even agreeing to
buy us the candy bars we picked at the
I always knew my blue passport
something everyone else wanted, but not
all were allowed to possess. My parents
encouraged me to be proud, to be grateful,
to take advantage of the opportunities I
got. And I was.
I felt special. My blue passport allowed
me to move north when the situation in
Juarez deteriorated, and granted me
access to public education. It erased the
border for me and allowed me to aspire
to be more.
But now, I am not so sure. The word
“American” doesn’t feel so safe anymore.
It doesn’t feel mine.
My family and I aren’t strangers
to racially charged comments and
discrimination. Since our move to
southwest Michigan in 2011, we have
been told to go back to where we came
from, asked if we ride donkeys to school,
given mustard when we asked for coffee
in a drive thru when a worker claimed
not to understand my father’s accent,
even been laughed at for the way we say
“kitchen” or “jaguar.”
From the beginning, we understood
that our differences were not completely
welcome in the place we were to call
home, and we strove to be included, to
respect our neighbors and to learn how
to do things their way.
It wasn’t until a few years ago that
I started feeling unsure when calling
myself an American.
I can recall the specific moment on
television, when their candidate Donald
Trump claimed Mexico was sending

“their worst.” Claiming Mexicans were
criminals, rapists and “bringing drugs”
was incorrect, but extremely successful.
He got what he wanted.
Hearing those words come out of
Trump’s mouth as if they were facts
validated stereotypes about my people.
There was no distinction. In Trump’s
words, all Mexicans and Mexican-
Americans, even me and my family,
were Mexico’s worst.
This particular Latinx stereotype
was alive and thriving in 2015, and it
has since grown into full-blown acts
of hate and violence. What happened
at the Cielo Vista Walmart of my
childhood at the beginning of
August can only be labeled as
such, an act of hate by a person
community is a threat to
European Americans.
The word “American”
slips further and further
from our reach every
time someone commits
the Latinx community,
casting us as others in
a country that would
not exist without our
presence and dedication.
Mexicans in particular,
the Southwest of our
country before European
Americans even thought
of them as viable places
to live. Those lands in
New Mexico, California,
Colorado, Arizona and,
yes, Texas were cultivated
and developed by us before
they became part of the
United States.
calling myself Mexican or
American is not one I should
have to make.
I am both. I have full rights
to enjoy all of what this country
has to offer. I am not stealing
anything away from “Americans”
because I am one.
At this moment, people like
me, Mexicans and Latinx, are
being labeled as invaders, and that
contradicts everything my parents
told me about the special qualities
of my blue passport.
A version of this column
appeared in the Detroit Free
Press. You can find it on the
Detroit Free Press website.


On being Mexican and Ameican


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