The Overwhelming Feeling of Not Being Latina Enough


All of my life, family members have called me the “gringa” of the family. I didn’t like traditional Mexican food, didn’t listen to Spanish songs (unless my mom had control of the radio), and most of all, my ability to speak Spanish was quickly fading. Don’t get me wrong, I could still understand Spanish completelybut whenever I tried to speak it myself, my mind went blank and it felt as though I was trying to communicate using only tongue twisters. 

Being born and raised in a small, predominantly white town in Texas, I had to learn English, putting Spanish, my first language, to the side. The only remnants of the language in my life were found in my family members, my mom’s favorite telenovelas, and Selena Quintanilla, the Queen of Tejano music. I remember my mom having all of Selena’s albums, which I would play on repeat until they were scratched beyond repair. And when I moved to another small town, I remember teaching my classmates Selena’s iconic dance moves, giggling and laughing with Latina pride. But as I grew up, going into my high school years, it became harder to speak the Spanish language and I became more self-conscious about whether or not I was Latina enough. I was teased for sounding like a “gringa” when I spoke Spanish and being the “whitest Mexican” you’d ever meet (seriously, a teacher's nickname for me in school was “White Mexican”). It didn’t help that there was little to no Latino representation in Hollywood; growing up, I dreamed of being a Disney princess but was disappointed that none looked like me. 

And then, Jane the Virgin came out on CW. It's an American telenovela about a woman who is accidentally artificially inseminated while on a routine clinic check-up, throwing her and her Latin family into a frenzy. Gina Rodriguez, who plays Jane on the show, did an interview with Huffington Post Live in 2015 in which, funnily enough, she talked about going through the same overwhelming feeling that I was having about not being Latina enough. The interviewer asked, “Do you need to speak the language fluently in order to be proud of your heritage?” Rodriguez went on to say that the Latino community has 50 or so countries varying in different languages, cultures, slang, and cultural garb, and that putting them in all in a box and expecting us all to be the same is “limiting.”  She states, “I’m as Latina as they come, and I am not defined by anybody's definition of Latina.” 

Mexican-Americans live in a world where there’s a tug-of-war between two cultures, and they aren't seen as good enough in either. They’re too American for the Mexicans and too Mexican for the Americans, to the point where one has self-doubts about who they are as a person. And what Gina Rodriguez said is something that not only reassured me but made me realize that your verification of being 'Latino enough' has nothing to do with whether or not you speak that language but knowing who you are, where you came from, and being proud of that. 


By Blanca Reyes 

4 comments

  1. I love & relate to this so much!! thank you for writing this

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am so, so happy to hear this! Thank you so much for reading! ��

      Delete
  2. THIS IS BEAUTIFUL!!!

    ReplyDelete