Honestly, that’s an important question we should be asking ourselves. I say that not only because of the rhetoric around the Mexican experience that has been so prevalent this election season, although that’s part of the reason we should be talking about this. The main reason, for me, that attempting to define (or not) the Mexican experience in the United States is that I truly believe we are completely misunderstood and often times underestimated.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come across other mexicanos and mexicanas from all walks of life who have told me they feel the exact same way about those last two statements.
Now in order to explain why, let me first explain how I began arriving at this conclusion myself.
It happened a couple of years ago for me. I was sitting in a room full of Latinos from all over the country, from a variety of different nationalities, where Mexicans just happened to be the minority. It was a sit down luncheon with a handful of speakers taking their turn addressing the crowd. Some of them were pretty interesting; some of them were just okay.
Then it happened.
I believe the exact reference used about Latinos (but it felt like it was addressed more towards the minority in the room – us mexicanos if you’ll recall) had something to do with “crabs in a bucket.” Now the reference itself was just part of a larger conversation, but I distinctly remember several of us Latinos of Mexican descent in the room shooting pretty glaring looks at one another. It was more than a little uncomfortable. It was actually kind of offensive we agreed afterwards.
I chalked it up to my being oversensitive to that particular reference in the moment.
Yet these types of things kept happening around me on a more regular basis. Someone would say something about how Mexicans were not as sophisticated or affluent as other Latinos. “You have to speak to Mexicans in Spanish,” another would say. When it came to writing in Spanish and it just so happened that Mexican Spanish was the most logical for a U.S. audience, sly remarks would be swung. It all just started getting pretty annoying.
Then it became more about how adapted, acculturated, or integrated Mexicans were not.
By all accounts it sounded like we were all a bunch of ignorant, stubborn, non-conforming individuals who refused to learn the language or live by the “norm” in this country. Yet that wasn’t the reality around me on a daily basis. The Mexicans that I know come from all walks of life. Some affluent. Some not. Some acculturated. Some not so much. Some English-dominamnt. Others Spanish- or Spanglish-dominant. Some with a four year degree or higher. Others with a high school diploma or less. Yet, every single person of Mexican descent that I know is just a person like any other.
It’s not a matter of what we aren’t. It’s a matter of who we are and how just like any other group of people we can’t be easily defined or categorized into one single subsegment, statistic, or demographic.
As Mexicans, we are a community of people with a rich and beautiful culture. What we are not is a stereotype.
I think that’s the most important thing. That we worry less about defining who we are or who others are for that matter, and that we focus more on just accepting the fact that we are all individuals trying to do our best to live our lives the best way we know how. That’s it. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Mexicanos or not.