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My Home.

My Heart.

My Story.

"HERE."

· Our Stories,Supper Stories

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.

HERE

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" I answer, knowing full well that he hoped for a more interesting answer, like some town in Mexico where people are known to have green eyes and blonde hair.
"Here" still makes sense to him, though.

"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 village of immigrants, descendants and the vaguely affiliated; those who have taken assimilation as an absolute.
A community of a few fair-skinned folks who have no need or desire to understand...
...and a treasured even fewer who do.
A city built over a chasm, desperate for a bridge which will surely be planned and built over late night taco truck meals.

A structure that begins as a plastic white folding table and a Styrofoam plate.

"Here" is a small California farm town that no one has ever heard of. A place that raises people to be strong -
- or maybe just tough.
"Here" is often suspicious.
And loyal.
Slightly hardened, at least.
"Here" is brave.

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.

Outside of these protective walls I am considered confused.
An imposter.
"Really bad at being white."
Someone who hears (and rejects), "You have forgotten where you come from."
"You just wish you were Mexican."
Maybe that one is true. Things would be so much clearer to us all if I was.

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 "mixed" babies who "look white" and have been warned of the snare of privilege might be less plagued by the duplicity they see and feel in this country.

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."

My hope to explain to you that my roots are here too, a grafted tree, irrigated by immersion. Never like the original, but improved by the alteration. Fed, nourished and thriving. I haven't forgotten the soil from which I sprouted, you see.
I could abandon the deep seeded pain over an inability to apologize on behalf of every ignorant person who looks like me; because they aren't sorry and I won't lie on their behalf.
My mission to build a bridge over this valley, fearing it may never be walked on by anyone but us.
The reason I suspect I am "Here".
In this little no place town, in a nowhere market.
Where some people have green eyes and blonde hair.
Who raise babies to love their roots...
...and roll respect off their tongues.

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