The feeling of being part of a culture, but feeling as if you are still an outsider, can be awkward and alienating, especially as an adolescent and is felt by many who are of different ethnicities and/or races. If you are Afro-Latinx, Asian-Latinx, Arab-Latinx, or Latinx and anything else, you most likely can relate to these sentiments. This is even true if you are from different Latin American countries! You feel as if you are living amongst different worlds, while just being you. To highlight how we might feel and to remind you that you’re not alone, here are 15 things especially us “half-Latinxs” can understand.
Not Feeling Latinx Enough, And/Or Being Told You Aren’t
We don’t like other people putting us into stereotypical boxes, but we are often guilty of doing that to fellow Latinxs, especially if they are from different backgrounds, or “half white.” We can be accused of being whitewashed, not being “Latina enough,” or pretending like we are Latinx if you don’t know off the bat that we actually are. This is damaging, since not all Latinxs act the same. We have a right to be exactly who we are and still be accepted as Latinxs.
Having to Prove How Latinx You Are
In order to compensate for being seen as “not Latinx enough,” we may have at times acted like a Latinx AF caricature to try to prove ourselves. That’s exactly what I did in high school, as did others. You would talk like a chola (with an accent), use certain slang, wear your big hoops and dark lips, and try to fit into the mold of what the majority of Latinxs at your school wore and did, depending on where they were from (Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, etc.). And that’s fine if you love to rock those things (I still do), but if you decided to wear something else or had different taste in music, you feared you would be accused of not being Latinx or told you aren’t “full Latina.”
Having a Non-Latino Last Name
I always joke that I have such a unique, practically impossible to pronounce last name (Szoenyi), and my mom has such an easy, super Latinx maiden name (Gonzalez). My full name, if you throw in my confirmation name is Vilma Alexandra de Fatima Maria Szoenyi, but because I have always gone by Alex Szoenyi, you can see how some people don’t automatically think I’m Latina. I know of many other people who have a Latina mom and a dad from another ethnicity, and therefore have European last names, Lebanese (and other Middle Eastern) last names — hello, Salma Hayek and Shakira Mebarak— Asian last names, African last names, and more. But we are all still Latinx!
“But You Don’t Look Latina”
Which leads me to my next point. We don’t have to have dark hair, dark eyes, and brown skin to be Latinx. Latinos come in all colors! I am a true mix of my parents. I have dark brown, almost black hair that I got from my mom’s side, and my dad’s green eyes. I have his Hungarian features, but also have some of my mom’s, along with her curvy figure. I am pale, but that comes from both sides of my family. You can be Latinx — even fully Latinx — and have pale or deep brown skin. You can have blonde straight hair or beautiful, dark 4C curls. We can’t make assumptions on who we see as Latinx and not Latinx. We hope with the extensive coverage we have been doing on various Latinx cultures that we are helping to expand mindsets surrounding this topic.
Living Between More Than One Culture
If you are Latinx and American, you automatically know what I mean when I saw you feel like you are living between two cultures. Now add onto that having one, or more, cultures that you identify with as your own. It has so many benefits —more cultures to know and love, way more bomb food, and speaking multiple languages — but it can make you feel like you are more immersed in one culture versus the other. This is where imposter syndrome can creep in, and where others can also assume that because you have more than one ethnicity, you can’t possibly fully embrace and live within them all.
Feeling Like You Don’t Fit In, Even in Your Own Family
I am one of a few people on my mother’s Colombian side that aren’t at least half Latinx from another country (Puerto Rico, El Salvador). In my generation and the ones immediately before it (excluding way back in my genealogy), I am the only “half-white” person in my family. Yet I’m still Latinx and proud, without feeling like I have to “try” or prove myself anymore. There are things that are going to make you unique or different, and Lord knows there are a lot of other things that make me stand out among my relatives. It’s good to be different! Own it!
Constantly Being Asked “What Are You?”
This. Is. The. Story. Of. My. Life. Hardly anyone guesses Latina. I’ve gotten Italian, Greek, Persian — you name it! It’s funny because some of these ethnicities have actually popped up in my ancestry DNA tests (they evolve as more info is populated into their systems). People have always asked me what I am (which is kinda rude when it’s phrased like that), or where my last name comes from, which opens up the floodgates to a whole conversation on how I’m Hungarian but also Colombian, along with other things.
People Assuming You’re Not Connected to Your Latinidad
It’s insulting that people automatically assume that if you aren’t from the same country on both sides of your family, that you’re automatically “watered down.” I couldn’t be more Colombian if I tried. It’s who I am, regardless of what else I also am. And I love being Hungarian and embrace that side of myself fully too. And as I learn about other parts of who I am, I am embracing those as well. Genetically, not being full Latinx can mean you are only a percentage of this or that, but the connection each person has to their cultures is very unique, and can change with time. Some people are almost 100% of an ethnicity and can feel almost no real connection to it, depending on how or where they were raised. Everyone’s story is different.
And/Or That You Don’t Speak Spanish
If I had a penny for the number of times I’ve seen shocked faces when I open my mouth and Spanish comes out, I’d be hella rich. I get it, I don’t fit into what many assume “Latinas look like.”Even if I’m ordering a burrito from a SF taqueria in Español, I’ll know when a look means “she must have learned Spanish in high school and wants to practice it now.” But nothing beats the times when I worked in retail buying or as a receptionist at some of my previous jobs, and the look of relief, trust, and comfort I’d get from fellow Latinxs the minute I spoke to them in Spanish.
But You Actually Speak Several Languages
Being from multiple backgrounds sometimes means being overwhelmed and not speaking any other language than English (and that’s perfectly fine BTW), or you can go all the way to the other end of the spectrum and speak all the languages from your cultures! Or somewhere in between. It’s never late to learn more about your culture, learn some words in different languages here and there, or really dedicate some time to learning a whole new language (or mastering another). It’s all up to you. As for me, I speak Spanish, have a pretty good grasp of French, have taken Italian, and know words in at least 10 languages total. I’m just a language person in general, though.
Feeling Guilty That You’re Ignoring Your Other Culture(s)
How do you think I feel having a whole Hungarian parent and dedicating my time to everything Latinx? A bit guilty! I’m not dismissing my Hungarian side (although I have disconnected myself from it in the past due to being a teen more tied to my Colombian side), but I was raised by one parent who is from Colombia. Naturally, that is going to be my primary culture and identity. It’s what I know. Any Hungarian culture and identity I have learned about and embraced is because I have chosen to, with love and respect for another facet of who I am. I do want to make time to dedicate to delving more into learning the language and more of the culture, but I can do that and not feel guilty about not having done so sooner.
Being Told “So That’s Why ______!”
This point ties back into assumptions of what is Latinx and what is from another culture, or from a certain race. Some assumptions may be right, but many are wrong — it’s best to treat each person as an individual, and ask them questions politely if you’re so curious about who they are. You’d be surprised to learn why someone says a certain word or phrase, or why they wear something, or like to eat specific foods! We are influenced by so much in life, within our own cultures, and outside of them!
People Assuming Latinx Issues Don’t Affect You
While I can pass for being a white non-Latina, I obviously don’t. I recognize the privilege that comes with being “white presenting” and I try to use it to help people in my community. I also don’t complain as if my problems compare to other Latinxs or WOC who don’t have that advantage. But I have still experienced the discrimination, judgement, and assumptions that come with being Latinx. I still school myself on what’s going on, check myself on anything I need to, and I’m there in the fight for ALL LATINX and ALL POC to see equality now. It’s part of the reason I do what I do professionally.
Having to Check Multiple Boxes on Forms
Checking one box on forms nowadays is a pain — imagine how it will be in the future? We aren’t clearly and neatly placed into boxes, including those of race and ethnicity. I have always check Hispanic/Latino, but also feel like I should also check White since I am also European. And I recently discovered in my DNA test that I am also 1/8 American Indian. How about people who are mixed with all the boxes?! I say check off all the boxes! It’s who you are!
Seeing Latinx Products That Don’t Apply to You
Womp womp. Designers have a right to make dope items, like this tee, that appeals to the majority of Latinxs (brown eyes are the most common in the world, which includes Latin America, so I’m not hating). It just leaves some of us out. That’s why I’m so happy that more and more brands are taking notice and coming up with Latinx products that encompass more of our facets, and include groups that weren’t previously repped, whether it’s celebrating Afro-Latinidad, or individual country pride, or being from two different/multiple backgrounds.