I ask myself this, all the time, more often now than ever. Recently at work, we started doing some affinity group work around culture and race. This post is not about that though, but about the internal turmoil the simple task of having to choose between two groups: the White Affinity group or the POC group (people of color). I don’t belong in either. If I join the white affinity group then it would be simply based on the color of my skin (yes, I am Caucasian) and I would be denying an important part of myself, my Latina roots. But I equally feel like a fraud in the POC group. This experience has mirrored something I have long struggled with, which is that I don’t feel I truly belong here, but I also don’t belong there.
I was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, moved to San Diego, California when I was 7 years old. When I have visited Argentina, I don’t really feel that I ‘belong’ there, I feel awkward and out of place at times. I don’t know the slang or bad words, my Spanish being elementary level since I only completed 1st grade there. I don’t have the cool porteño accent my family and friends have (I have more of a Mexican accent when I speak Spanish). On the flip side, I also experience the feeling that I don’t belong here either. I missed out on many early social milestones of my generation since we moved here when I was already 7 years old.
A more accurate description of myself would be as racially Caucasian, ethnically Latina, and culturally equally Mexican, Argentinian, and Southern Californian. When we moved to the US, we quickly made friends with a Mexican family that lived in the same complex. The first draw was that they spoke Spanish, so it was easy to communicate with them, but they also had a daughter my age and a younger son my brother’s age, plus they had come to the US because their dad was completing his doctorate in psychology. We quickly developed close bonds, and to this day, they are my second family. We spent many holidays, birthdays, and Christmases together. And even when they moved back to Mexico a couple years later, we have continued to visit them. I spent several summers in Mexico while on break from school. I have seen more of and spent more time visiting Mexico than Argentina.
Growing up, my mom worked as a researcher with scientists from all over the world, all with green cards like us. I grew up being surrounded by people from all over the world speaking English as their second language. It was all I knew. So naturally in high school, when choosing who to spend time with and who to date, I gravitated toward a culturally diverse crowd. I feel most comfortable there. So, you may surprised to find that I chose a güero as my husband. He has his own story of how he came to be who he is; but I will let him tell that tale if he wants to. While we share a love of traveling and the outdoors (and it doesn’t hurt that he is dashingly handsome 😘), we are very different, with very different upbringings, but this is exactly what draws us to each other. It’s what keeps things interesting.
I am deeply appreciative of all of my experiences growing up, including every struggle to belong; these experiences have shaped me into who I am today. I wouldn’t change a thing, but it makes it impossible to pick a box. Why do I have chose just one? The world is beautifully colorful and diverse. This is what makes life stimulating and compelling.