Thursday, March 03, 2005

Chicana on the Outside

Another blog has now linked to this one. Julio Sueco commented on my last post and now I'm on his Yonder Lies It website. He has linked several Chicano blogs and while I'm honored to be included and very glad about it, I also feel intimidated. Am I worthy? Although I began calling myself a Chicana in the 1980's while attending UC Berkeley, I've never felt certain about bearing the political mantle of it. Am I left-wing enough to call myself a Chicana? Is my heritage right? Is my language right? Is my hair right? I have always been certain that there's a definition of Chicana that I will never meet. I remember in 1984 I considered joining the campus MEChA chapter (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán, wow, I'm surprised I remember that). But I didn't stay because I felt like everyone was from a working class background and they saw me as different. When I mentioned being originally from L.A., one girl said, "East Los?" (East Los Angeles). I said no, my family had lived in Westwood. She said, "Ohhhh, that's a nice part." I fled.

I have always been ashamed of being a middle class Mexican American. I've also been ashamed of not speaking Spanish well. I've also been ashamed of how huge a difference there is between me and most Mexicans and Mexican Americans. I was born in a white neighborhood, raised in white schools, learned nothing but white English (my parents never spoke Spanish to me), and inhabit mainly white culture. On the phone you can't tell I'm Latina at all. I'm the quintessential "coconut," brown on the outside, white on the inside. I've never been to Mexico. I'm not working on improving "my" Spanish and I've never given anything "back" to "the community." I just live my life, aware that I challenge Latino/American expectations just by existing. Some people see me as Mexican and expect me to act Mexican. Mexican Americans expect me to act Mexican American. And some whites expect me to act white. I disappoint and surprise everyone all the time.

But if someone wants to include me in their links to Chicano/a websites, that's great. I just hope I don't have to meet any requirements.

(BTW: When I typed the title of this post, I meant "outside" as in "crunchy on the outside, creamy on the inside," but now I see it reads more like I'm on the outside of some structure or group. Good enough.)

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