By Ivana E. Morales
“El peor enemigo de un mexicano es otro mexicano.” (A Mexican’s worst enemy is another Mexican.)
I was sitting on the trolley, heading home after school, when I heard two high schoolers, a boy and a girl, speaking “Spanglish” behind me. This is normal since we live in a region where languages mix. Out of respect, I try not to eavesdrop on other people’s conversations, but this particular exchange caught my attention.
“I do not trust Mexicans,” the boy said.
“Me neither,” the girl replied. “I only speak Spanish because of my parents.”
I was surprised. They started a dialog about how Mexico was poor and dangerous, and how they felt ashamed of being labeled as “Mexicans.” These offensive words of ignorance and prejudice made my mouth drop open in disbelieve. I silently turned to face them.
“Have you ever been to Mexico?” I asked.
The two shared a sanctimonious glance.
“No,” said the boy.
These types of conversations make me very sad. I feel conflicted when Chicanos or people of Mexican descendant talk nonsense about the country of their parents or grandparents. Many seem to feel embarrassed about having roots in Mexico. They believe being bilingual is abhorrent.
Being bilingual has been stigmatized. When immigration is motivated by necessity or even survival, the motherland can become a burden. Speaking the parent language can be considered an undesirable trait, especially if the place of origin has a bad reputation. But instead of feeling humiliated, one should feel pride. If expressing ideas in a single language can be complex, can you imagine the struggle of dealing with two different thoughts with a similar meaning? Being bilingual is a privilege.
Mexicans are diverse and evolving people. One day we seem look like extremely patriotic people and react with burning fury if someone wounds our national pride. The next day we can be racist towards our own kind.
We tend to diminish those who are different. We judge people for their skin tone and for their accents. If a person has brown skin, we call them “indio.” Having darker skin is looked down upon. We look down on Mexican-Americans because they are too “Americanized” or because they cannot speak “proper Spanish.”
It should be the other way around. Bilingualism and biculturalism are gifts that enrich the borderlands. They create opportunity to mold a unique identity.
Tolerance is essential. We must respect each other and we need to understand we have the same roots. Prejudices cannot be erased overnight, but must be worked on gradually.
President Trump began his campaign by labeling Mexicans as “rapists” and “bad hombres,” paving the way for continued rhetoric of bigotry and racism. He wants to build a “big beautiful wall” to keep criminals out. His remarks empower racists to think they have the right to act violently and harass minorities.
Mexicans are crossing the border to flee from the United States. Between 2009 and 2014, one million Mexicans returned to the mother country, according to the Mexico National Survey of Demographic Dynamics. My paisanos are heading south, not north.
President Trump is mistaken.
Both countries are intimately connected. America’s economy depends heavily depends on Mexican immigrants. In 2009, American companies employed 5.9 million Mexican workers.
Mexico is a wounded country battling corrupt governments, drug cartels and negative clichés. Mexicans are often depicted as lazy people with big sombreros and old burros.
But Mexico is so much more. Mexico is beautiful, with an amazing culture. Its language is exquisite and the landscapes are breathtaking, not to mention the distinctive music and food. Mexico has 27 archeological sites that are recognized by UNESCO as World Heritage Site.
I felt more pride for being Mexican when I came to the United States. Being away from the country I was raised in made me value my own cultural identity like never before. Most importantly, it made me realize that we are unique individuals before anything else. I am Mexican and American. I cherish my heritage. I wish everyone did.