Wednesday, July 22, 2009

I'm Tired of Being Better!!

As the eldest in my family, I always felt more like a walking rough draft in which my parents kept erasing the errors and pasting the torn pieces of paper back together. It may be a bit harsh to explain it in that manner but like any other family they did not have an instruction manual in raising a child, let alone in a different country away from their culture and origins. My parents came from Mexico, even though my mother was born in Texas but as an infant the family was deported back after the season of picking vegetation was over. As my parents did not speak English there were many moments I had to interpret letters or conversations by phone in order to make household decisions or take care of pending matters.

I love my parents dearly and understand they did the best they could with the little education but much life knowledge they possess. My parents raised my brother and I with much love and discipline, paid for private school, and bought us whatever we needed. As of the age of 9 my brother, who is five years younger, and I spent years as latch key kids and had to take care of each other after many bad experiences with outside babysitters. The summers were sometimes spent in Mexico in order to understand our culture and keep in touch with relatives. During the school year we walked home and immediately locked ourselves up. We didn't have video games, or a computer, until we were in high school, somehow we entertained ourselves by watching television or conjuring up games with our imaginations. When our parents called home there was a code they used, "ring twice and hang up" that's when we knew it was okay to pick up. I think all that responsibility for a child was too stressful and understanding that led me to grow into an independent individual. I remember watching spanish television on Saturdays and there was only one station on the radio at that time. There were no "Fiestas or Mexican meat markets" to cater to us, only the Hernandez Family Store, Luna's Tortilla Factory and El Fenix to name a few. We grew up with the understanding that mediocre was not accepted and working hard paid off for everything. My brother and I had to understand that we had to be better than our Hispanic brothers and sisters only because they were many of them making us look bad, and we had to be the other side of the statistics grid that did not include us in poverty or prison.

Being bilingual has its benefits but growing up bi-cultural was difficult. It's best explained in the Selena movie where her father says "you have to be more Mexican than the Mexicans and more American than the Americans both at the same time, exhausting!!" I couldn't explain it better than that. I loved my neighborhood in Oak Cliff on Oak Cliff Street. We were the first Hispanic family to move there amongst retired white couples. I know they didn't know what to expect with us, but we spent many wonderful years there and learned so much from each other that I cannot express it better than say it truly does take a village to raise a child. Many times when my parents were home from work, we played all over the neighborhood with our friends and our neighbors kept an eye on us and warned us if we misbehaved our parents would know. They did not treat us like delinquents, instead they educated us, talked to us about history, and how it was growing up as a child in their era. I learned not to walk on my neighbors grass and the yes ma'am, no ma'am rule. Respect and a person's word meant a lot at that time.

When we went to Mexico I was always made fun of as I'm fair skinned and some Mexican children are tan. Oh yeah, there were plenty of arguments when we played outside with the other kids so I just stayed indoors with the family. Let's just cut to the chase, in the U.S. my name was a dead giveaway for being Hispanic and looked down upon in certain circumstances and then my appearance held me back from being accepted when I visited in Mexico. As far back as when the Spanish invaded Mexico being fair skinned is a sign of beauty or power but many young Mexicans didn't like what that represented and resented the fact that you "are what you are". I didn't see what the problem was but only had to respect that they had their own sub-cultural battles or demons they were facing and I had my own back home.


  1. I love this entry Maggie! It's a really great insight into your life growing up as a Mexican-American. I have no idea what that's like, being a white girl myself! :) I'm sorry for the cultural problems that you had to deal with, but I think it has turned you into a beautiful person, inside and out! Love you girl! Keep on blogging!

  2. Thanks for sharing some of your life story. I am so proud of the person I of come to know. I remember when I met your girls at Helen's wedding and I thought, they are two delightful young ladies and every time I see you I think what an AWESOME Mother you must be and it shows through your girls. Our struggles make us stronger and better from it, so you stay encouraged and continue to BLOG.... Lisa