[KQED] Too Mexican, or Not Enough

By Lupita Uribe
Originally published by KQED on May 11, 2016.

I have blue eyes, sandy brown hair with a blonde streak, and light skin. My English is excellent, perfectly accented and if you didn’t know any better, you’d think I was a native California girl.

But if you pay a little more attention, you begin to wonder. I have fuller lips than your average white girl, wider curves, and an undeniably Mexican name.

Lupita Montserrat Uribe Hernandez.

You get the double R, the soft Ts, the stereotypical long name. Thirty letters to be exact. I was born in Mexico, and nearly all of my family was too, but I constantly have to defend my roots, all because I’m light skinned.

I’m often asked, “If you’re from Mexico, why are you white?”

The simple answer is because there are a lot of light-skinned people in Jalisco, my home state. The not-so-simple answer is, “Why do you care?”

More than someone who fits the profile of a Mexicana, with the darker skin or kinkier hair, I have to prove myself. I have to know the traditions and be able to recite them upon request. I have to prove that I know how each word in Spanish is accented. I have to know the Mexican recipes and the significance La Virgen de Guadalupe has to our people.

In all honesty, I don’t have to do anything, but there is a constant pressure to.

And if there’s a slip-up and I forget a fact, or mispronounce a word, a feeling of shame fills me, as if I’ve disappointed my family

That pressure is not just coming from my own community, but from the one I belong to outside of my culture.

Even if I’m not Mexican enough for the Mexican community, some times I’m too Mexican for the white community.

On paper, there is no denying my ethnicity. Because of that, I’ve received subtle hints of racism from people disrespecting me. Their tone changes when my Spanish accent comes through. Also, being unresponsive after they read my name in emails, or their attitudes switch from polite to cold and frigid, eyes rolling and their tone sharpening as soon as they hear me speak Spanish.

It is an odd oscillation between not being enough and being too much, but that’s what I was born into.

With a Perspective, I am Lupita Montserrat Uribe Hernandez.

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