Photo by Danny Zúñiga
I’m Mexican-American. My parents came to the United States in the 1980s with my two older siblings, and for that I will be forever grateful. I was born and raised here in the states. One my biggest dreams was to visit my parents' roots and learn more about my Mexican culture. Finally last year I went to Mexico for the first time. I wasn’t sure what to expect. All I wanted was to get to know my family members who I knew about through Facebook. In the 25 years of my life I've only been to Mexico twice, and I still need to experience much more of my Mexican roots. I can say for sure I experienced some eye opening moments, and also beautiful memories I would not trade for the world.
Social class difference
Here in the United States I grew up in the middle class, and that’s a great blessing. Unfortunately, in Mexico the situation is either you’re rich or you're poor. There isn’t a middle class as there is here in the United States. I grew up listening to stories of poverty my family grew up in. I learned this by seeing it with my own eyes, and also hearing all the stories from friends and family. For example, the family of my cousin's friend in Mexico couldn't afford a boiler for hot water, so his family took showers in cold water, until he and his father bought a boiler for their family. To many of us here in the states 150 dollars isn’t a big deal, but to people in Mexico it’s not easy to afford. It makes me appreciate the little things that we take for granted everyday.
The importance of family and customs
One of the main reasons I wanted to visit Mexico was to visit my mother's side of the family. Most of my father's side of the family migrated to Mexico, but now they live in the United States. I met new members of my family and I felt right at home and loved - one the most beautiful experiences of my life. They know I was born and raised in the United States, and they didn’t care about that. The essence of family is a number one priority. Especially when it came to eating together. Here in the United States everyone has their own schedules and priorities, so eating dinner together is a rare thing. Each time I ate dinner with my family we would all eat together. It wasn’t separate individuals at different times. One custom I love is eating out in Mexico, and people will tell you "buen provecho" which means have a good meal. You are sitting down eating, and the person next to you gets up tells you: "buen provecho." These are strangers telling you this. The only person who tells you have a good meal here in the states is your waiter.
You aren’t a real Mexican
When you visit your parents' homeland, people who were born there can distinguish and tell you’re American. That’s disheartening when your own roots don’t want to accept you because you were born in a different country. One experience is when we went to eat in Mexico, and people kept staring at us because we looked different. I felt out of place because I was getting judged and they did not realize I still have sangre Mexicana.
Another example is when I went to the bathroom and told some girls I was from the United States. They gave me a look of disgust - the look of "you aren’t good enough to call yourself Mexican." I understand not everyone will accept the fact that I was born in the United States, but I believe that will never make me less of a Mexican. I love my Mexican side just as much as I love my American side. I am here to fall more in love with my roots and Mexico. I never let those looks or words discourage me and my mission.
The best advice is to go visit your parents' homeland because you will learn things you never thought about. You will experience new foods, new customs, and even meet new family members. I can tell you in advance there will be people from your parents' homeland who will not accept you because you weren’t born in that country, but don’t let that hurt you. Go out there and keep learning. The biggest lesson you will learn is to continue to be humble and grateful for things you have now because not everyone is as fortunate as you are.