Column: I deserve to be here

‘I am no longer afraid to embrace who I am.’


Courtesy of Marco Velazquez.

“I was neither Mexican nor American. I was a wonderful mix of the two.”

I stand startled as I watch everything play out in front of me. The racial slurs and screams fill the air.

Fear. Confusion. Shame.

Thousands of emotions run through my veins and I don’t know how to control them. Kids shouldn’t have to hear a racist spew malicious words at their mother. But I did.

All my parents wanted was to provide each of their kids with an outstanding education and an overall higher quality of life. They knew we would have better opportunities in the United States than in Mexico, so they decided to leave everything behind, despite the possible consequences, and came to the United States.

I never saw anything wrong with having immigrants as parents. I actually felt a sense of pride because I knew my family constantly sacrificed little things so I could live better than they did. I saw firsthand how hard my family worked. But not everyone saw it that way.

From the age of 7 I was mocked for having Hispanic parents and speaking Spanish better than I could speak English. I couldn’t help but let the R’s roll off my tongue nor could I unlearn the accent I had. These things were out of my control.


After a few years of suffering the same things over and over again, I realized maybe everyone was right. Maybe I wasn’t “American” enough. I wasn’t like the other kids around me; I didn’t go home and eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, I went home and ate arroz con pollo.

I didn’t feel like I belonged. I allowed people to keep telling me I didn’t deserve to live here.

And at one point I started to believe them.

I tried to change the way I spoke and the way I carried myself; I refused to speak Spanish outside of my home.

I didn’t want to be myself. I was afraid to do so because it was constantly shoved into my brain that being different was bad. I didn’t want to be called out for my race anymore. I didn’t want to be told I wasn’t enough.


Pretending like my Mexican culture was non-existent was the worst mistake I ever made.

My family didn’t leave everything behind for me to wallow in self-pity; I finally understood that.  

I lost myself in the process of trying to fit in. I lost what I valued most in life.

My culture.

I am neither Mexican nor American. I am a wonderful mix of the two despite being told otherwise.

I no longer care about being different. I don’t care about hate directed toward me because of my race.

I am proud of speaking Spanish.

I am no longer afraid to embrace who I am because nothing will ever change my family, my heritage or my culture.

Soy hija de inmigrantes. (I am the child of immigrants.)

Soy Mexico-Americana. (I am Mexican-American.)

Merezco estar aquí y no estoy avergonzada. (I deserve to be here and I’m not ashamed.)