I am Mexican when its convenient

racecard-shotJohn Heath Olguin,
West Orange, NJ.

Before you get all worked up about my 6 words. Let me explain. I watched a little boy of Mexican-American decent sing our national anthem and thought nothing of it. The next day I read about all the negative comments that came about of his performance (see link) and began to think of my own Mexican heritage.

I am a Texan / American of Mexican heritage. I grew up in a small border town and can easily converse in English and Spanish without any accent. The difference is when I walk into a room my “Mexican-ness” is not something that is immediately identifiable. I have green eyes, fair skin, and my name is John Heath. Over the years I have been called “Guero” or “Blanquito” both used in both positive and derogatory terms. No big deal.

Yet my “American-ness” is never questioned. I have never experienced the hateful comments that may other Americans of Latin decent often experience. I can slip in and out of my cultural ambiguity quite easily (conveniently??)

My stealthy white boy exterior is the first impression people get. My spicy Latin interior is usually called into action on those occasions when it’s needed. Its my my trump card – John Heath suddenly begins to speak Spanish (usually around other Spanish speaking people) and I see the light bulb go off over their heads. The “Us” / “Them” thing suddenly subsides and I can see them ease into a common unspoken cultural connection. “Compadre!”

So what about the little boy singing the national anthem? I want to thank him for doing an amazing job and for reminding me of my own cultural heritage. I look forward to the day when our race, heritage, nationality, origin, color (any other label) are not what defines us.

Keep the conversation going - comment and discuss with your thoughts

  • barry irving

    …if you look at you genealogy, you just might be European with “some” Mexican blood. White is a social construct…there was a time when you and many others who “appear” to be so called White, would not be so if you were not Anglo Saxon protestant!

 

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