There is a term floating around (since forever, actually) the Mexican lexicon, a sadly illusory concept which is symbolic of an oppressive sense of nationalistic parochialism. The word is pocho, a slang term used to derogatorily describe any Mexican who does not speak Spanish fluently or, concurrently, chooses not to swim amidst the cultural motifs of Mexican heritage. By “pocho” standards, I’m assuredly a pocho.
Even though Spanish was my first language, it quickly faded from my verbal tool chest as I began attending grade school. Eventually English became my primary (and only) means of communication. I found myself responding to many Spanish-speaking relatives in English, a source of humor for all. I was embarrassed about my pathetic Spanish skills, and even though I understood the language, I felt my ability to converse was so pitiful that I could only respond safely in the language I knew and felt most comfortable with: English. Whereas this presented a greater communication obstacle 30 years ago, it does less now because many of the younger Mexican border generations are adept at English, so I have no problem communicating directly with younger cousins, aunts, uncles, etc. Still, my lack of Spanish skills places me a few notches below the standard bar of classical Mexicanism.
I’ve known Mexican people, unrelated friends and acquaintances, who have less reason to mince words and they appraise me as they would an impostor, a traitor, an ethnic Benedict Arnold.
Throughout my life I’ve always felt comfortable befriending people of all races. I’ve had Mexican friends, but also White, Asian, Jewish. I didn’t have black friends as a child because I grew up in an area that had none, but as I grew older and moved into the work environment, my racial circle widened to include many black people who I formed relationships with. I consider my life richer for this in terms of ethnic perspective and self-awareness and I believe my intellect has also thrived.
Or is it my intellect which has allowed me to co-exist with all types of cultures?
I wonder if my ability and willingness to immerse myself in unfamiliar cultures and ethnicities is an indicator of a specific open-mindedness or ability which many of my fellow close-minded Mexicans lack? As long as I can remember, owing to my interests and affinities, I’ve frequently found myself in crowds where I was the very rare, if not the only, Mexican. Some might find this intimidating or frightening, but I’ve always derived a sense of pride from such situations.
Yes, I realize multiculturalism is not quite the darling concept in much of this blogosector, but this is not an argument for multiculturalism in and of itself as a strength. Rather, I believe the ability to fend off the distractions of a multicultural society while blending in seamlessly and flexibly while maintaining one’s ethnic identity is a sign of strength.
I have a female Mexican acquaintance who is greatly bothered by my tendency to date Asian women (an exaggeration on her narrow-minded part, it’s only been the last 2…). Or rather, my tendency to not date Mexican women. Once again, this is not part of a grand racial plan or scheme I’ve concocted. I date those I’m most comfortable with on an emotional and intellectual plane. I keep promising myself that one day I will ask this acquaintance why she only dates Mexican men. Isn’t that as pertinent a question as her asking me why I date Asian women? Obviously she has a Mexican fetish but it’s quite acceptable, and in fact, desirable, since she is Mexican. I don’t understand this mindset.
I’ve also never understood the concept of language as identity, an idea which is the mainstay of Mexican culture. I know Mexicans who relate well with non-Mexicans on a daily, work-related basis, but whose social and family circles are almost exclusively Mexican. I find this one-dimensional and such an ethnically cloistered existence that can only accentuate racially-bound traits, good and bad, while excluding traits, many which may be favorable, of the broader population cross cultural population.
And the ethnicity suffers for this. It is indicative of a short-sighted ignorance which is content to remain intellectually sheltered.