I get the same question over and over. "Are you Mexican or...?", usually followed by a confused face. I wrote this in response to that question, but also as an answer to my most commonly received critical comments. I know I don't owe them an answer, but it was awfully therapeutic to write it all out. I've spent much of my life (roughly 30 years) trying to make sense of my place in this town, and this little bit of prose is the culmination of those thoughts, insecurities, frustrations and ultimately, my convictions as a woman, wife and mother.
Where are you from?", the manager of the supermercado asks me, puzzled by my white mouth pronouncing those Mexican ingredients with such care, flair & respect.
"Here" is an island of sorts, a land where my existence computes. A place where a white woman can love a culture that isn't her own, respect the history of the man who loves her and raise their babies to love the roots from which they were grown.
A structure that begins as a plastic white folding table and a Styrofoam plate.
We know real Mexican food and could get caught talking smack about yours. We listen for the honk of the Panadero's van, the sound of the Elotero coming down the street and the familiar voice of the viejita selling tamales door to door to pay for her husbands insulin.
I wouldn't feel the need to convince anyone of my alliance or explain my role in raising Latinos. I could pour out my heart for La Cultura without a second thought.
My ability to make food como su abuela may be less surprising, confusing and/or feel like less of a heist, which would surely sooth the guilt that feeds my desperate need to pass that knowledge on to my daughters so it doesn't die away, simply because their father married me.
There's my desire to be trusted and say to Latinos "I'm not like the people who have hurt you."
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