Tuesday, October 2, 2007

not latina enough?

so i have this new job, which is actually pretty cool and interesting, but it forces me to think outside the box...at 8 am every morning. haha. it's an internship in Human Resources at the University of Rochester. the office handles human resources for the school, the hospital, eastman, and like, everything connected to the university. so it's a huuuuuge office.

i work in the diversity division of human resources. meaning, the office that deals with recruiting underrepresented minorities and helping them to adjust to life in rochester (trust me, EVERYONE needs help adjusting). it's pretty cool, and totally my alley since i'm really interested in underrepresented minorities and their movements for civil rights. you can probably thank (or blame) my mother for this.

anyway, yesterday was my first day of work (it's been pushed back twice so i'm really glad that it wasn't pushed back again) and it's been tough adjusting to waking up at 6:30 am. basically all i've done is mess with some stuff on the computer, and yawn a lot.

today was a little different though. my boss wants me to work on this project for the latino community and i'm really excited about it. at least i was until i realized that i don't know what makes me latina or why my boss would want me (a very tan, but very americanized student) to work so closely with the latino professional community. see i had to meet with this woman who works in admissions for the school of medicine and dentistry, who is latina, and who is my contact for this community of latino professionals. she was kinda intimidating, but only because she IS a professional latina and she works for one of the most prestigious program/university/research hospital in america.

we got to talking, first about my project and then about myself. she asked me (in spanish no less) if i spoke spanish. i, of course, answered no, but that i do understand it enough to get by. she seemed surprised, especially since she already knew that i'm from texas. then, she asked if i had been to any of the mexican restaurants in the area, or if i had been into the office of multicultural affairs. i replied in the negative. this surprised her even more, since i'm a SENIOR. she asked me why? and i had no real answer. what had i been hiding from? surely i'm not ashamed of my background, i grew up in san antonio, texas. we're known for being proud of our culture. so, then why did i not explore it 2000 miles away from home, when it would obviously make me feel more comfortable in my current surroundings?

after thinking about it for a while, i came to this conclusion: at home i don't have to shout my latina-ness from the rooftops, i just am one of many. also, while most of the latinos on campus know with which culture they most affiliate with, i'm left wondering which one i belong to. sure i'm from texas, but that doesn't mean that i'm a mexican-american. i'm an american. born and raised in america by two parents who were also born and raised american by four grandparentsthat were born and raised in america themselves. then you move on to my great-grandparents and well...it's just a mix-match of different cultures. spanish, portugese, german, french, polish, native american, they all mixed together to make me and my sisters (mostly spanish from what i understand). but did my family ever live in mexico? have we ever been mexican citizens? not to my knowledge. so how can i call myself mexican? just because i live in texas? no, that's not logical. last time i checked texas was a part of the united states.

also, i don't speak spanish. i can't make tamales. tripas and lengua are nasty. they even smell bad. church? well...that's a whole different discussion all together. my family is sooooo americanized, and there are so many parts of our culture that have been lost. i'd love to be able to speak spanish. i'm trying to learn right now. and it would be so cool if my grandma could teach me to cook tamales, menudo, tortillas, and anything else that tastes good. we can still leave out tripas and lengua.

i read latina magazine. the "real women" they use in there, y'know the ones that model the right way to wear certain styles? they are all "puerto rican", "cuban", "mexican-american". i've never seen anyone in there that just said, "latina" or "hispanic". so i guess it's important to affiliate. but what about those of us, who just don't know?

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