Sunday, July 15, 2012

An Immigrant Narrative.

Someone just asked me, "why do you refer to it as your country?" when I was talking about Mexico.

The implication being, I am from the US now and therefore I am American. American in whatever that internationalized idealized or ridiculed or exaggerated view ends up being. Based on my time here in India, it means being white. And a hyperly sexualized female figure. Which is something that I have HATED from the first day here on out. It means being privileged and sheltered, which yes compared to the rest of the world, Americans are undoubtedly so. I include myself in this stereotype, because I have been very lucky and I acknowledge and am grateful for that.

People look at me and see white. They see brunette in the US. They see g├╝erra in the Mexico. They see blond in India. They see my skin tone as the ideal to the point that all major actresses are as pale as I am, every grocery store/street stand selling skin care products promising to bleach your skin/your arm pits/your pubic hair. Americans pour on the fake tan and nearly glow in the dark. Here I glow in the dark for different reasons.

I cant change what I look like. This is what I am and this is how I will always be. And I am happy with that.

But so much about citizenship is clearly tied to this nagging idea of identity politics. For people whose families have lived in the same city/country for several generations, the answer is simple. You can be a citizen of that country and never wonder.

I am an immigrant.

I have parents from different places, histories. blood ties back to different countries. Feelings that tug me and cause me to feel loyal for different reasons. I love Boston. I love living there and the streets have become etched into my mind and memory and I feel safe and comfortable and at home there. I love Mexico and all of the places I have been able to explore there, and see and feel and revisit and taste and be part of. I am proud of the US when we compete well in the olympics or surprise people by doing better at soccer in the World Cup a few years ago than everyone expected. But I turn off the rest of my life and watch Mexico's games in the world cup when I'm with other Mexicans -- something I dont do for American sports (apart from watching Michael Phelps in the last summer Olympics).

My top 25 on Itunes are a mix of Mexican pop music, weird alternative American music, and some other stuff thrown in there.

I speak Spanish and English at home. I eat spicy food without flinching or even noticing, and I wear more color than 95% of the people in my neighborhood.

I study and work in Mexico and the United States.

If my citizenship and my nationality is based on "where my blood is from" I am a stateless, floating human being. I dont have this as an option and I accepted this long ago. My Mexican friends tease me because I am not fully one of them anymore. My American friends tease me too. All with affection, yes, but there is truth in this. I am not one thing. I have written and spoken about it countless times. All that I can give you is a narrative as an immigrant. I cant give you a stamped sheet of paper with my extended family tree and provide you with anything conclusive.

So this leaves me with one option, when people as me "where are you from?" or "what are you" all I can say with certainty is, "Hi. I'm Diana."

1 comment:

  1. You're like Ada's father: in Nigeria they ask him, "where are you from?" and in the US they ask him, "where are you from?"