As I sit here and read through endless articles on Latino experiences coming particularly from those who are from LA, I can't help but wonder, how "Latino" are my kids going to be? I ask myself this because I am presently coping with the confusion one encounters when your passport reads "U.S. Citizen", your parents are immigrants from Mexico and El Salvador, and you were born and raised in SOUTH EAST-LA, a part of LA that isn't acknowledged enough.
Becoming cognizant of our multiple identities is both a blessing and a curse. It is the complexity of our identity that makes us more interesting individuals, but it is that same complexity that makes it difficult for others to decipher who we are. And when I say others, I mean everyone, especially we as "Latinos."
Like many "enlightened" Latinos, I had the privilege of receiving a college education. I recently graduated from UCSB with a degree in Art History and two minors in French and History. Because of my major, I had the opportunity to study abroad in Bordeaux France for a year and intern at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. It is through these experiences as well as the course work I took that I formulated ideas on who I was and who I was not.
I took a Chicano Studies class and found myself wondering whether I was a Chicana or not. I sometimes I felt obligated to consider myself Chicana because I knew the flaws associated with the terms "Hispanic: and "Latino." Honestly though, I felt more comfortable, and in some way prefer the term Latino over Chicano. My reasons are entirely personal and in no way would I want to impose my preferences and biases on others.
I don't consider myself Chicana because I don't relate to what I SEE associated with Chicanismo. I see Chicanismo, in context to LA, as associated with second or third generation Mexicans that were once from EAST LA who don't speak Spanish and are too distant from being "Mexican." First and foremost, the immigration experience of my parents is recent and it is different from the families of self-proclaimed Chicanos.
My parents came to the U.S. in 1979; my dad from Mexico fleeing poverty, my mother from El Salvador fleeing the beginnings of the civil war. My parents never worked in a field. In fact, I had never seen farm labor until I encountered it on the 101 Ventura Freeway on my way to UCSB. My parents instead began their life here in the service sector and now work in unionized jobs in which my dad earns a middle-class salary by working 12 hour shifts, at times, 7 days a week.
In other words, my parents are an example of meritocracy. However, I understand that my parents have lucked out; they don't. They view that our success is attributed to all our hard work or as they would say "Bendiciones de Dios." What they fail to see is that not every one with their background will achieve the so-called American Dream. And because of this, my father nags at me all the time because he claims that I should be proud and not ashamed of being born in this country. Although I don't agree with him, I appreciate his concerns. Then I think about the future, and my own kids.
For me, it is a must that my children speak Spanish. It is a must that my children are advocates for social justice. And most importantly, it is a must that they recognize that their socio-economic privilege is the result of their grand-parents "illegally" crossing the border to hustle in this country in order to give me a chance to reach my full potential. And I fear that not happening and I fear viewing myself as a bad parent as a result of it. But at the same time, is it fair for me to burden my children with such expectations knowing that they will inevitably be distant from my paisa experience no matter how much I try to imbed them in it?
I am South-East L.A. girl living in New York City, teaching in the South Bronx and attending Fordham University for my Master's in teaching.