I find it interesting when people look at me and assume I am Mexican. I have been confronted with the kind of people who make these assumptions. The kind of people that walk up to me and say “Hey, you’re Mexican right?”
In my mind I ask, “Why do they say that?” Is it because I have certain features that distinguish me as Mexican and not any other Latin American country? Do all Mexicans have a certain look and do I have it? Do I speak Spanish like a Mexican? Or is it that you mean “of Latin origin” and have no other way to describe it except for Mexican?
It’s easy to lump everyone into one category, but when doing so you tend to overlook the differences in race, culture, ethnicity, and nationality. I don’t get insulted, I am just shocked at the minimal amount of knowledge some people have about these differences.
Lumping me into this overly generalized category of Mexican is my biggest pet peeve. First of all I am American. But I know what people usually mean when they ask what my ethnicity is. They want to know where my parents are from and where my roots lie.
In that sense, I am Mexican, but there is a whole other half that sometimes gets overshadowed by the overwhelming generalization that because I look Latina, I must be Mexican. Being half Mexican and half Guatemalan has opened my eyes to much more than just Mexico. I am well aware of my Mexican roots and just as much as anyone else who loves where they come from, I love that part of me.
I have in the past years, however, become more aware of my Central American roots, which I am also incredibly proud of. I am much more attuned to the similarities between the two and have come to appreciate and respect the differences as well.
I understand that most people don’t mean to do this purposely or mean any harm by it. I understand that most people may not even mean Mexican necessarily. What they probably mean is “of Latin origin,” which is the fact that bugs me even more. Why assume that “they’re all the same?” I’ve had people literally tell me that. When they ask me “you’re Mexican right?” I answer yes, but I am also Guatemalan. Their next reaction is, “oh, well it’s the same thing.”
This may come off as if I am not proud or prefer to ignore or deny my Mexican roots but this is not the case. The same reaction would apply if someone were to assume that I was Guatemalan or any other ethnicity for that matter. But this is usually not the case. The generalization is usually Mexican.
I myself am not an expert on the politically correct lingo to use or even an expert in all ethnic backgrounds. I am in no way suggesting that everyone should know or even understand the difference and the harm in making such generalizations. I am not suggesting that anyone guess by looking at me that I am both Mexican and Guatemalan.
I am simply suggesting that no assumption be made at all. I am suggesting for people to be more sensitive and respectful of where people come from and where their roots lie whether they be Mexican, Guatemalan or of any other ethnic background.
Diana Gutierrez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.