When we divide ourselves into “us” and “other” we don’t only lose the other, we lose ourselves. I was twenty-seven before I realized that my mother sometimes spoke to me in Spanish not because she’d picked some up in college before travelling in South America in her twenties, but because her side of the family, some of whose forebears had been (wealthy) Spanish speaking settlers of California had maintained the language so as to be able to speak to their Mexican maids. I suppose that touches on some of the Cal-Mex cooking, anyway.
But does my late discovered hispanic background, such as it is, have more to do with who I am than having grown up close to my Japanese aunt, or having been a second language speaker of Chinese, and enmeshed in parts of the Chinese community for the last twenty-some years? I am an oversized white girl daughter of the Pacific Rim, I suppose, a fact that became more clear when I moved to Cleveland and couldn’t easily find half my kitchen staples in the supermarkets there.