I have always had an assumed cultural heritage projected on me that I do not fit. Among Americans, I am the Mexican. Among Mexicans, I am the American. I am Mexican American, seemingly both, but never completely part of one or the other.
My study abroad experience two years ago in Lille, France helped me explore this contradiction by uprooting the context of my traditional existence as I experienced life in another country. As cliché as it sounds, in that time, my world perspective shifted drastically through the people I met, the places I visited, and the things I learned, which were distinctly different from anything I had ever known. I was surrounded by a wealth of diversity I had never experienced before that exposed me to different ways of life and allowed me to learn about myself.
I realized how Mexican culture is fascinating to me because I do not have a modern perspective on it even though I have been exposed to it my entire life. Growing up as a first-generation American, I tried to fit in so hard that I rejected all things Mexican throughout my childhood. I hated mariachi with a passion, refused to eat traditional Mexican dishes, disliked visiting our hometown in Mexico, made no attempt at fostering friendships with other Mexicans, and avoided speaking Spanish as much as possible. I thought that to be distinctly American meant to be distinctly not Mexican, and that to be accepted I would need to renounce the cultural heritage my parents offered me.
The first time I saw my parents after being abroad in France for a few months, I apologized within an hour of being reunited with them in London. I apologized because I realized what my words and actions had communicated to them over the years. I had ignored their background and rejected our culture for so long, assuming I could trade it in for something I preferred. Enlightenment never comes from where you expect. It took me leaving my home in the United States, traveling to a small college town in France, to truly connect to my roots that originate in a tiny Mexican village called Concepcion de Buenos Aires in the state of Jalisco.
Before studying abroad, my friends and family often found it amusing to ask me if I would ever move to Mexico. My reactions varied from stating “no way in hell” or “over my dead body” to immediately getting irritated and storming away from the perpetrator. When I was younger, my parents even used the idea of moving our family back to Mexico as a threat when I was misbehaving. So, imagine my whole families surprise when I decided to come out with the news that I was moving to Mexico City to begin my international business career. If only I had recorded their reactions… they varied from condescending judgement, to shock, concern, ridicule, disapproval.. the list goes on.
Despite the overwhelmingly disapproval from the majority of those around me, ever since I decided to move to Mexico City, I have not doubted myself or my decision. For some reason, it just feels right. As Judith McNaught said, “there will be a few times in your life when all your instincts will tell you to do something, something that defies logic, upsets your plans, and may seem crazy to others. When that happens, you do it. Listen to your instincts and ignore everything else. Ignore logic, ignore the odds, ignore the complications, and just go for it.” So, I went against my family, friends, and mentors and took inspiration from this quote. I moved to Mexico City — and am actually writing this post from the airplane en route to my new home en la Ciudad de Mexico. And, I could not be more excited. I am excited to start my international business career that I have been dreaming of for the last several years. I am excited about the opportunity to perfect my Spanish working in one of the most important Latin American business capitals. I am excited to live in and explore one of the largest cities in the world filled with outstanding museums, ancient pyramids, beautiful architecture, vibrant art, and delicious food. I am excited to experience my culture in a way I never have. There are so many ideas, feelings, and thoughts running through my head right now.
Moving to Mexico is literally the last thing I would have ever wanted three years ago. But, today is January 1st, 2017 and I am thrilled to begin the next chapter of my life in Mexico City, even with all the challenges that will inevitably arise from moving to a new country, starting a new job, and beginning to do this thing called “adulting”. For one, I know that living in Mexico City will prompt people to ask me “where are you from” or “are you American or Mexican” and these questions don’t stress me out anymore, like they did throughout my entire life. Because, I know who I am and I am proud of it. You see, I have loved the song God Bless the USA by Jump5 since the day I heard it when I was in 3rd grade and I get goosebumps every time I stand for the Star Spangled Banner. 500+ family and friends, a bedazzled princess ball gown, and a court of honor comprised of my cousins and best friends are some of the reasons My Quinceañera, one of the most important celebrations in Mexican culture, was the most magical day of my life. I will never be American. And I will never be Mexican. And that’s ok because it means I can proudly say I am Mexican American. Spanglish will always be my primary language y soy como dijo la India Maria, “ni de aquí, ni de allá.”