I think I’ve figured it out. the struggle, I mean. the one that partially led me to disconnect. the one that might require me to do so again. I think I’ve really figured it out. what’s behind the struggle, maybe what contributes to it. Right now, they’re just thoughts, hypotheses untested but seemingly explaining this whole identity crisis. Or partially at least.
I think I’m a Latina, a free-spirited mujer brought up in & surrounded by an American culture.
My recent trip away from home (to my home) is mostly responsible for this realization. The culture I found (and always find) there is rich with history, suffering, truth, but also progress, reality, presentness. While the segregation that exists hurts my heart, the culture retained within the various comunidades feeds my soul.
My current experiences and those growing up are very much a contrast to this. or at least I think so.
[Pause. I want to state that this has mostly likely been determined not only by the history de mi gente or the Mexican-American-Tejano culture of the city in which I currently reside but also-mostly by the culture within my immediate family, a unique intersection of cultura and acculturation, dysfunctionality and misguided notions from both my Mexican Mother and Mexican Father…and myself (can’t forget about personal responsibility, now can we?).]
My father jokes about how he is American, despite his Mexican birthplace, despite his dark skin, hazel eyes, cabello cafe como la tierra en cual nacio, despite the racism and intolerance he’s encountered, he jokes about being American. His immunization scar is turned an “eagle” through words, with claims, puns of it branding his arm to show it so. He speaks mostly English at home to his (Mexican-)American children. and (Mexican-)American friends. My mother, my Mexican mother, seemingly caught in her own borderlands as her children grow, leave, return, and continue with their “American” ways, all while she learned the language to work and feed her family, and continues to learn and speak in order to connect with her nieto, her only grandchild. Daily cena con la familia turned to leftovers or fast food in separate rooms.
So this is how I grew up, memories from what I can recall mostly after relocating to Texas, extending to current day, filled with fading of Mexican traditions but rejection of acculturated American ideals. Lost. Or stuck. Yeah, stuck seems more appropriate. Stuck between their expectations and my hopes.
Compare now to my experiences away from but close to culture – I wonder about my intense emotional reaction visiting la ciudad, or how I switch to mi lenguaje con facilidad but have limited opportunity or comfort to do so. I wonder about meeting a kind soul recently whose palabras y presencia impact me in such a beautiful but unknown way. I wonder about always feeling like I belong elsewhere, farther from la frontera than I am now but closer to mi cultura. I feel like I was meant to live en una comunidad Latina (a la Pilsen o La Villita), to know Spanish, to really know it, to feel it…something I struggle with at times in my current place.
Perhaps it’s naivety. Feasibly, it’s a bicultural identity gone awry, one side fighting against the other. Or maybe it can all be chalked up to a quarter-life crisis, spurred by the American ideal to “find myself.” but really, honestly, I think I got it. I think I understand that my struggle can be captured by the above. by my actual versus my hoped-for. by my familia here versus mi familia actual there.
…or at least I think so. Again, maybe I should stop thinking…