Race, ethnicity and identity in the US is so entrenched in the culture that it is difficult not to think about the political term “minority”. Everywhere you go, people are talking about it, it’s on the news, you can feel it and smell it in the air. As much as it can cause fights between two or more different ethnic/racial groups, the term can also bring people together (whether they like it or not). It definitely blurred the ethnic tensions between Blacks, Asians, and Latinos at my college. As an ethnic minority, you came to realize that you needed to come together, foster and celebrate each others’ culture when the rest of the predominately white campus found itself in a bind to promote their own without coming off as racist or ethnocentric. That in itself is an interesting phenomenon that will change with time and as generations become more bi/multi-racial. Either way, the term minority inevitably became part of your identity.
It’s an amazing feeling when you separate yourself from an environment that is so tense when it comes to talking about race and ethnicity. Moving to Mexico made me part of the majority group, and surprisingly, it was disappointing. I thought majority groups went around talking to each other about their superiority. Even behind closed doors, to my surprise, nothing happened. You have to remember, being part of the majority is new to me.
Having adopted the term “minority” in the US allowed me to identify with the Mexican indigenous groups. Obviously not to the extent and at the same level as one who belongs to the actual group, but more at the level of heritage pride. Afterall, that’s a huge part of the Chicano culture and the images they bombard you with in paintings, low-rider cars, and literature in the US. Interestingly enough, indigenous people in Mexico are marginalized in more ways than people will believe. Generally speaking, in my opinion, the treatment and views Mexicans (in Mexico) give and have towards indigenous groups is worse than the treatment and views that the Native Americans are subject to in the US. Why? There are more mestizos (a person of European and indigenous ancestry) than there are actual Iberian (a person of Spanish, Portuguese or Basque–essentially white–ancestry) Mexicans. To view an indigenous community that is ACTUALLY (genetically speaking) part of your heritage, history, and culture as inferior to you is a disgrace. Though it does not justify the treatment and views of Native Americans in the US, the connection I just pointed out does not exist between Whites and Native Americans.
Anywho, though I may not be a minority by my ethnic makeup, I am one through the cultural assimilation and experience I had in the US. The implications of this difference are not felt as much when you come for a 1 month vacation compared to when you actually move down and live here for many years or the rest of your life. Once people know the extent of your stay, they will treat you accordingly. How so? Well, the idea vacationing in Mexico is that you come down for fun and to have a break from your home country (whether or not you were actually born there). Mexicans know that you can care less if you said “bloques” instead of “cuadras” (street blocks). In short, they will let things like that slide… But if you’re in a situation like mine where your stay has been extended to an indefinite amount of time, by default, you’re included as a local and called out for your foreigner ways at the same time. Any grammatical or pronunciation error may fly in the US, but in México, te la pelas 🙂 And that’s not even the tip of the ice berg…