White-Washed Mexican

Posted on October 9, 2010

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Urban Dictionary definition of White-Washed:

A person of color with all white friends. They do not consider themselves as a hyphenated-American and think of themselves too good to live “in the hood”. Though a person of color, they are generally afraid of other people of color, do not date other people of color, and tend to vote Republican.
“Rice worked at the White-House and became white-washed.”

WHITE-WASHED TEENAGER

I am the son of Mexican immigrants, fluent in Spanish, well-educated in my culture, and proud of my heritage.  I grew up on Pedro Infante movies, traditional Mexican music, Mexican food, big family barbecues, and the Catholic Church.  That was a very important part of who I am this very day.  However, I also had other influences that shaped me.  I grew up on a small beach town in beautiful Southern California.  I lived a few blocks from the sand and went to sleep hearing the crashing waves of the World’s Safest Beach.  I took the liberty to absorb the beach culture that surrounded me.  Why wouldn’t I?  It was a beautiful thing.  Some of my Hispanic peers (not all) took to Hip Hop music, the gangster and tagger lifestyle, drug-use, and all around self-imposed ignorance at some level.  It was almost as if goofing off in class and mouthing off to teachers meant that they were “down”, a Hispanic rebel against “the man”, while my excellent spelling and good grades made me some kind of tool.  I love Hip Hop, especially the music that came out when I was a teenager in the 90’s (Death Row Records was rolling out hits!), but I never participated in the gangster lifestyle.  I did not wear baggy clothing, write graffiti, do drugs, or speak in slang.  That was not my culture and I could not relate.  Because of this, some people considered me being “white-washed”.  That was one of my first exposures to this very fact:  Haters will ALWAYS try and bring you down.

WHAT IS MEXICAN?

I take great comfort in my accomplishments and rest easy knowing that I can hang with academics, athletes, Marines, musicians, and artists.  I have a solid track record in all these fields.  Nobody can call me uneducated because I am a well-read individual with a college degree and successful career who has also traveled the world and speaks three languages.  As far as athleticism goes, I have run two half-marathons, four 10K, one four-mile, and three 5k distance races this year alone.  I am running a full marathon in three weeks.  The Marine Corps was not big on laziness either.  Any person who dares call me a coward must know that they are challenging a former Marine Sergeant and proven leader in a combat zone.  There will be no hesitation on my part to stomp them out.  I have played guitar since I was 12, played in a few rock bands, won a song contest on the radio last year, got to open for La Quinta Estacion, and continue writing music to this day.  I have been a good sketch artist since I was a child and as an adult have designed several websites.  I am proud of all these things and I am aware that they make me different than most my peers, but does this make me white-washed?  Am I supposed to look like Mr. Mustachio in the picture above?  That antiquated American vision of what a Mexican is supposed to be is a caricatured stereotype.  Even worse are the misguided stereotypes that some Mexicans place on themselves.

Low-riders, Virgin of Guadalupe tattoos and T-Shirts, clown faces, bandanas, Aztec Warrior murals, Aztec calendar tattoos, Pancho Villa T-Shirts, cholos, and zoot suits were all created in the United States; not in Mexico.  They are part of a sub-culture within the Chicano culture.  It is an image created by descendants of Mexicans and other Hispanics which takes certain images from traditional Mexican culture and blends them with American Cholo (gangster) street culture.    The fact is that most Cholos are unfamiliar with the story of the Virgin of Guadalupe, Aztec culture, or the history of Pancho Villa.  It is much easier for them to copy their peers than to create their own image, especially if they have not been educated in their culture by their parents.  I was fortunate to have a father who always reminded me of my roots and taught me about Mexican history, including taking me to historical sites in Mexico.  People in Mexico do not dress like the characters above.  My only problem with this lifestyle is the false claim to Aztec ancestry and the limitations they place on their own communities by shunning education and commiting crimes against each other.  Instead of taking pride in the history of where these images they glamorize came from, they romanticize their limited knowledge of Mexican history and invent their own past.  There are other beautiful aspects to Mexican culture that should also be celebrated and I believe that they blind themselves to them while creating a uniform and generic sub-culture.  Yes, they are still Mexicans, but that image does not define all Mexicans.

So, what is Mexican?  I feel qualified to write about the real Mexican experience because of my family and my vacations in Mexico.  My parents were both raised in central Mexico (Aguascalientes and Guadalajara) and my grandparents have lived in Mexico all of my life.  I have a good relationship with my uncles and cousins in Mexico because I visit most summers and keep in touch with them through e-mail and on the telephone.  I hear about their lives and share my life with them as well.  I see a lot of similarities with Mexicans from different parts of Mexico, but there are also a lot of differences.  The country is large and has varied geographical features.  For example: the south is very tropical, the north is very dry, the west is mountainous, Baja California is a desert, and the center is very rich agriculturally.  Each region requires different lifestyles to survive, so there is a variety in regional music, traditions, and history.  There are, however, many similarities between all Mexicans.  It is not the food (varies by region), the music (also varies by region), or even the language (there are still indigenous groups, such as the Zapotecs, that speak in their native language).  I find that it is through their morals and values, not their habits or interests, that Mexicans can relate to each other.  Mexicans are predominantly Catholic, even many of the indigenous groups.  Church is a big part of the Mexican experience, no matter what region in Mexico they are from.  Those values stay with the culture even as Mexicans stray from the church.  That is how the Virgin of Guadalupe becomes a cliche image on a T-Shirt worn by a cholo who doesn’t go to church.  There is also a lot of Pride in their national history as they were underdogs during both the Mexican Independence War and the French Intervention.  Mexican culture, though descended from Aztec Empires, has been re-shaped by the Spanish and Catholicism since the Aztecs were defeated by Hernan Cortes in 1521.  There are more Mestizos in Mexico than full-blooded native Mexicans.  In reality, a mural of Don Quixote has just as much relevance on the hood of a low-rider than a mural of an Aztec warrior holding a half-naked Aztec princess.

Mexicans are a mix of Indigenous and European ancestry.  Their influences are varied by region, geography, history, language, and many other things.  They speak mostly Spanish, but not entirely.  A Mexican is whatever he or she chooses to be.  Whatever the outcome may be, it is an accurate depiction of a Mexican, but not of Mexicans.  There are many stereotypes for Mexicans.  They are both accurate and inaccurate, depending on what region and person those stereotypes may portray.  To say that there is a certain standard  a Mexican should live and be judged by is an uneducated perception and to call someone white-washed is to place a limit on somebody’s potential.  Placing a bubble on your own culture reverses the progress of evolution.  Reaching outside of the normal does not take away from what you are, it only expands the horizon.  The best part of evolution is cultural improvement.  If I, as a Mexican, criticize a peer’s accomplishments, then what path am I laying down for future generations?  My parents came to America so I could be a successful human being.  Nobody leaves Mexico to raise the perfect Mexican.  There is no such thing.

I AM MEXICAN, MEXICAN IS ME

I have no idea where my DNA originated from.  It could have been Asia or Europe.  It is clear, however, that my ancestors came from Mexico.  Anything I do will forever be an action by a Mexican.  I add diversity to my ethnicity, but my ethnicity does not define me as a person.  All Mexicans are part of a floating ethnic nation independent of what country they are citizens of.  It lives, breathes, and evolves as it adapts to changes.  Ancestors of Mexicans from the southwestern United States that lived there before Mexico lost the territory to the United States did not lose their ethnicity when the border jumped over them.  My parents did not lose their ethnicity when they crossed the border into the U.S. in the 1970’s.  No matter what I do in life, my Mexican ancestry can not be “washed” away.  It is in my blood.  I am a citizen of the United States and I am very proud of that.   It is a blessing.  I love this country and I will lay my life down in its defense, but it is important to understand that an ethnic nation knows no borders and I will always be Mexican.  Does that mean that I will support the Mexican government?  No, it does not.  The country of Mexico is independent of its ethnic nation just as Irish-American citizens will always be Irish even if they have never been to Ireland.

AGAIN, WHAT IS WHITE-WASHED?

We, no matter where our DNA was created, are influenced by the changing world around us.  It is believed that the first Americans came from Southeast Asia.  After that, the Europeans conquered most of the Americas while mixing with the indigenous populations and bringing slaves.  There is no pure race.  Europeans were mixed long before they ever reached American soil.  We are all a combination of different cultures and ethnicities, especially in the United States.  With that being the case, what is white-washed?  There is no such thing.  Condoleezza Rice did not turn her back on her culture by working in the White House.  She is a well-educated American, a product of our American culture.  The United States is a great nation because of our diversity.  For the record, I was not a supporter of the Bush Administration, but I respect Condoleezza Rice’s academic accomplishments (and her mad piano skills).  Being a citizen of the United States means that I have the right to disagree with my government and voice my opinions on the matter.  It also means that I do not need to conform to anything that I do not agree with.  I am not ashamed to demonstrate my pride for this country which was built and strengthened by immigrants like my parents.  I hope that future generations respect and defend each other equally despite any differences they may have ethnically, physically, spiritually, or culturally.  GOD BLESS AMERICA.

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Posted in: Modern Life, My Path