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Life as an Incognito Minority

October 1
by
Catherine Schmitt
in
Culture/Travel
with
.

The older I become, the more I realize the importance of family and remembering your roots.


Looking at my light brown hair, blue eyes and last name, you wouldn’t think I have a Hispanic background. My dad’s heritage is German, hence my last name, and my mom’s heritage is Hispanic. Being an incognito minority all my life has allowed me to play two roles: the Hispanic girl with a Spanish speaking family, or just a “white girl” who has a typical family in a typical suburb.

Sometimes, I would find it easier to play the “white girl” role just to dodge questions. “How do you have blue eyes??” or “So, why don’t you speak Spanish?” are just some examples. People’s curiosity and sometimes ignorance made the conversation exhausting, so I found myself drifting from my heritage…drifting from the person I really am.

As I get older, I remember the memories my hidden heritage has given me. Some of my fondest childhood memories took place in Mexico; the birthplace of my grandmother.

The smell of churros, the sound of mariachi bands in the distance and discount prices at the local Mercado—this could only be one place—Juarez, Mexico.

There was nothing more exciting to me than visiting the shops filled with Barbies dressed as flamenco dancers, eating coconut popsicles and buying the tropical fruits sold at the stands on the side of the road. Eating authentic Mexican food surrounded by the people I loved was such a special experience—one that I will never forget.

I felt like I instantly connected with the strangers around me because we shared the same roots and loved the same place. Visiting Mexico had become a part of my life and I looked forward to every single trip.

It was during high school when I truly began to understand what it meant to accept yourself for who you are. As I got older, I realized how important it is to be different from those around you and to have confidence in who you are and where you are from. Hearing my grandparents share stories about their childhood and seeing how proud they are makes me feel honored to carry those stories and traditions and pass them along to my children someday.

I began to cherish my heritage and embrace who I am.

Unfortunately, this heartwarming place filled with happy people, amazing food and my memories is now so dangerous. Not only Juarez, but much of Mexico has become intensely dangerous for its citizens and American visitors.

Sadly, Juarez is now known worldwide to be one of the most dangerous cities in the Western Hemisphere. It really devastates me that this amazing place has turned into a memory that might not be restored in time for my grandma to reclaim her fading heritage.

When the violence in Juarez is reported during newscasts, it is often done so with some uninformed implied notion that “people get what they deserve.”

The drug-lords wreaking havoc do so as they supply their product to an anxiously awaiting customer base in the States. For my family, and the families of countless Mexicans, this is a tender and emotional problem. We, as Americans, need to act for the benefit of all continental Americans. While my dire need for some authentic Mexican food serves as a personal and selfish motivator, the truth is we must all strive to save not only a people, but also a precious culture.

I feel it is my duty as a Hispanic young woman to represent my culture and beauty to its highest potential.

I also think it is crucial for people to remember not to judge other cultures and other lifestyles. People have often made rude comments or jokes about Mexico in front of me, not knowing I have a strong connection with this beautiful country. Judging places, people or cultures is wrong and ignorant.

It is important for us as Americans to learn the facts and respect other people and places. It is important to remember that even the most dangerous or remote places have people who love and cherish them.


Now, as a proud Hispanic, I feel it is a privilege to be a part of such a precious culture. I wear my heritage with pride, joy and hope. I have pride to be Hispanic, joy to represent the Mexican culture in the United States and hope that Mexico will be restored to its former beauty and respect it so greatly deserves.

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