I think that I am having an identity crisis. Or something of the sort. Whatever it is, it is inspired by twitter, the blogosphere and other internet meeting places. Or maybe today it is inspired by PMS. Who the hell knows??
My identity crisis has to do with language, ethnicity and feminism.
As a child I grew up in a neighborhood mixed with immigrants and native born Latina/os. I always felt like I was on the outside looking in at everyone. I was raised by a single mother and everyone else mainly had a father around, at least when we were younger. I think that was the first time that I started noticing that I was different than the other families, and that they treated our family differently.
As a child I never really fit into the groups of kids who hung out with one another. I never really fit into the group with the first generation immigrant kids who mainly spoke Spanish, and I didn't fit into the group of native born kids who didn't speak Spanish either.
Growing up I always got too many mixed messages from my family and the community. "Maintain your Spanish and culture" would be the message one day and "English is more important" would be the message the next day. "Wow, you have an accent when you speak English" was often pointed out to me by English speakers, and "Wow, you have an accent in Spanish and butcher the language" was told to me by native Spanish speaking recent immigrants.
I never felt like I fit in anywhere. I didn't fit in with the white kids, I didn't fit in with the second and third generation latinos, and I didn't fit in with the recent immigrants. I have never fit in with many other Latinas, because in my experience far too many of them have been oppressed by the Catholic church or their families. The handful of latina feminists that I have come to know well over the years is a very small group, and they are mainly English speaking second and third generation latinas.
Over the past couple of months, I have been chatting on twitter with my buddy Marga Britto who writes a blog called Madres Insumisas. She is bilingual and through my interactions with her I am beginning to realize that I have lost a lot of my Spanish. I can obviously communicate in Spanish, but I have a laziness that exists in many bilingual communities, where we can just revert back to English when the going gets tough.
From following Marga, I am starting to also follow many other latina feminists in Mexico who tweet and write primarily in Spanish. One part of me feels such a relief to see Mexican feminists. It's like I have been looking for them all of my life and I have found them. It fills a void that I have walked around feeling all of my life. But then comes the language issue, and the frustration that I can't communicate to the same extent in Spanish as I do in English.
And there's always that nagging sense of the conflict that sometimes exists between native born Mexicans and those of us who were born in the United States. You know, that conflict of not fully understanding one another's life experiences, languages, and cultural practices.
Language is an interesting thing, tied intricately to our identity and ability to have intimacy with other people. I just hope that I can move past this temporary issue with strengthening my Spanish that I have begun to lose over the years. The realization that I have lost my Spanish to the extent that it makes me feel as if I can't communicate as effectively with people who I have been waiting for all my life to appear...well, that makes me very sad, indeed.
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