Not white enough and too white.

Maritza Aviles de Garcia,
Dallas, TX.

My entire life has been spent walking between two worlds, the predominantly white world outside of my home, and the watered-down Puerto Rican culture of my home. Growing in Central Texas, there were three Puerto Rican families. We were one of them. I translated for my parents whether they liked it or not. It made white people realize that if I was smart enough as a kid to translate between two languages, then my parents must be smart too. Some folks would change the way they treated my parents. I witnessed this as a child in the eighties.

As I got older, identity became more complicated. People were looking for clear-cut labels. On more than several occasions, I was asked, “What are you?” My response, “I’m a human female.” (I was a trekkie at heart.) No one liked that answer. When they persisted, I explained they were asking the wrong question. I’m not a “what,” I’m a “who.”

So to sheltered white folks, I wasn’t white enough. I was exotic. To everyone else, including other Puerto Ricans, I was white. I never belonged. It still kinda hurts me to say that. I wasn’t actively trying to defy societal norms regarding race and culture. It was pretty obvious to me when the lines were being drawn.

I also had issues with forms. Hispanic is not a race, it’s a culture. No, it’s a label for a group of people who speak Spanish. Spanish speakers come from different countries with diverse cultures and dialects. No one wanted to hear that back then.

Now I’m forty. Has anything changed? Yes. Those who love indiscriminately are more numerous than before. More voices speaking out all at once can’t be easily silenced.

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