I had a humbling moment in Downtown Fullerton the other night over chamango margaritas.
The server had taken our order after we had quickly finished our delicious los diablitos. He repeated the order saying something like “Carne asada and carnitas.” Out of habit and probably alcohol induced, the word “Si” slipped out of my mouth.
Flashing back to my first shift at the Forum for the Luke Bryan concert on Sunday, I was reminded of a confrontation with a guest over his wife’s lost phone. The phone was later found and he thanked my supervisor (a man with dark skin and of Mexican descent) AFTER having an entire conversation with him in English saying, “Gracias, senor.” This was after he thanked another supervisor before him (ethnically ambiguous compared to the other) in English. It was such a blatant microaggression that the situation at the Mexican restaurant brought me back to it, but this time I was the perpetrator!
It became a moment of horror when the server looked at me incredulously asked me “if I just said ‘si’?” I then proceeded to defend myself by saying,”Yes, I’m half. You wouldn’t believe me if I told you the other half though… it’s Asian.” This broke the awkwardness and created a new conversation that ALWAYS happened when I mention that I am half-Mexican.
“So where is your family from in Mexico?”
I NEVER know how to respond to this, which means I have a response prepared. “I don’t really know. I’m fourth generation.” This usually receives a polite silence and continued fascination that two individuals of different ethnic identities can procreate.
But this time was different! He blew me away with a response that derailed this part of my identity I was always afraid to be a part of. “Fourth generation? [Wow] Then that doesn’t really count because you’re pretty much all American.”
I have been using that response for a couple years now and people never really understood, but this time he was accusing me of not being Mexican. And instead of being relieved or vindicated, I was offended! This happened on Tuesday and I have been mulling it over, chewing my lip in concentration as to why he was wrong. Of course it all came full circle as the Giants won the World Series tonight.
Needless to say I am sad that the Dodgers lost in the Playoffs because Kershaw didn’t deserve it and I learned to really enjoy my job. In the six months I spent at the Blue Heaven on Earth, I felt connected to my “Mexican American” roots in a way that Chicana literature, Spanish classes or any exposure to media or communities (which I had none btw) could fill me up with so much joy and finally a sense of belonging to a part of my ethnic identity my mother couldn’t share with me because SHE didn’t have any either.
So not only did I lose my job when the Dodgers lost, I had to say goodbye to this part of my identity I had just begun to explore and feel comfortable with. So of course my natural reaction when the server questioned if I was really Mexican would be defensive. Now more than ever I could proudly state “I’m Mexican” without doubting myself when really I should not have to defend my self-identification to begin with.
Ultimately, this has recharged me (along with some exciting news, changes and opportunities this past week). Also, the margarita was really good. It’s time to reflect, work hard and do all the living I’ve been dreaming about.
Oh and by the way the margarita was really good. Like reeeeaaallly good. Now for the pictures!