Irvania López Toledo,
Growing up as a first-generation American in a white city was difficult for me, growing up. As early as four years old, I began feeling the pressure to assimilate. I refused to speak Spanish, I idolized straight blonde hair and blue eyes, and I desperately wanted to change my name. But, it didn’t matter how hard I tried to fit in with my peers. I was still “othered” by friends and teachers alike. The older I got, the less “American” I felt. My parents sent me to a Spanish immersion elementary school (which I will always be grateful to them for). However, once I got there, I quickly learned that I didn’t fit in with the Latino kids either. I didn’t look like them, and I didn’t speak enough Spanish yet to talk to them. By the time I knew enough Spanish and they knew enough English, I already felt like an outsider. It didn’t help that the white kids didn’t believe me when I told them I was Mexican, going as far as to convince me that I was half-white simply because “I was born here”. To this day I’m still dealing with the consequences of growing up feeling not “American enough” for the white kids nor “Mexican enough” for the Latino kids, though I have been making progress. I understand now that my heritage and my culture can’t be placed into any box, that I am valid in my identity, and that I am not alone in my experience.