“What is it about me that says I am not Mexican?” by Carolina Herrera

Carolina Herrera is a sophomore at Notre Dame San Jose High School. She takes interest in photography, softball, and medicine, and she aspires to be a neurosurgeon. This is her story:

For my whole life, I was told I am a Mexican, but my family never went into depth about my family history and my true identity. I have a story from when I was 12 years old.

I had been chosen by my teacher to attend a program at a high school for Latinx students. Being the only girl from my class to attend, I was quite content about it and eager to start the program. For the first
meeting, I entered a room with other Latinx students from around San Jose. One of the instructors pulls me aside while the rest of the group gets started.

The instructor asks me, “Why are you here?” At the time, I was clueless as to why she would ask such a question, but she added on saying, “This is for Latino students only.”

Now I had to make it very clear to her that I am Mexican. That same day, I remember going home and asking my parents “What is it about me that says I am not Mexican?” and that is when they began to tell me about my heritage.

I can understand for many people that I am not what your “typical” Mexican looks like. I do not fit into the stereotype of being short, dark skinned, or having an accent. I am light skinned, tall, and I have no accent when I speak. Once again, I can understand why people never believe I am Mexican; it’s because society has been brainwashed by a stereotype that shouldn’t even exist to begin with. When I learned about my heritage, I finally understood more as to why I look pale rather than tan. The state where my Mom’s side of the family originated from is full of light skinned people. Historically speaking, if everyone passed history in high school, the Spanish conquered Mexico and reproduced with native people.

In my blood, I am Mexican, but I am partially European (Spanish descent), and that is why I am light skinned. To this day, those who see me for the first time don’t believe I am Mexican, but I calmly explain to them what I actually am.

Going back to the Mexican stereotype, it has affected me way more than just my physical appearance, it has affected who I am as a person. To clarify, this does not apply to everyone, but when someone hears that I am Mexican, some assume that I am a lazy, no-good person who comes from an uneducated background. However that is all false, and it shows how dangerous it is to rely on stereotypes to define a person. When my Grandfather came to this country at 23 years old with barely anything, he made his way up in society by working hard and educating himself. He never attended school here, but he kept a good job that
helped him raise a family. My Mom, Aunt, and Uncle all grew up here, graduated from high school and college, and all three of them have successful jobs.

I am not saying that I am a perfect student or person in general, but I focus seriously on
my studies so that I can be successful just like my family members. In my life, people have doubted my success because of my ethnicity, but I am saying f*** you to everyone who did that because one day I will be able to prove them wrong.

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