Being Mexican-American: “It’s exhausting”

I dislike the term Mexican-American, by the way. I’m an American.

Anyhadoodle, I mentioned in an earlier post that I was approached by a man on the street, thinking I was El Salvadoran. I told him I was from Texas, and I was of Mexican descent, to which he replied in Spanish, “It’s the same thing!”

It’s not the same thing, but that is anothe blog post for another day. (Note: I type this line frequently, not because it’s my favorite line, but more of a reminder to myself of a post idea.)

I have the distinctive burden of looking like I mow lawns for a living to OTMs (other than Mexicans, if I had to explain, and that includes every background), and not looking Mexican enough for the natives. There was only one exception.

Once I was riding a bus to Nashville (I refused to fly at the time) and on board to and from were passengers who were of Mexican descent, whether citizens or non-citizens. All you could hear on the bus was Spanish being spoken.

On the way back, we picked up the one and only white person on the trip in Austin. I never spoke to her, but felt compelled to because she looked uncofortable riding on the bus. But I didn’t go near her.

After arriving at my destination in Edinburg, Texas, the rest of the passengers were able to take a break before the bus moved on to McAllen. As I was exiting the bus, this woman was talking to the driver, whose English was probably just as good as his Russian, and another passenger who clearly wanted to flirt with her. He didn’t speak English, either.

So, I’m getting out of the bus, and she gets my attention and wanted me to translate. So I did, she thanked me and we went on our way. How did this girl, whom I hadn’t shared one word with pick me out of the lineup? I thought it was a miracle.

(This is an example of the culture, by the way. When we don’t get certain attention we complain, and when we are recognized we question it.)

If I speak to someone in Spanish, say a Mexican, they’re always correcting my vocabulary. I grew up speaking Spanish first, but like Louis C.K., I have since lost a lot of that vocabulary because I didn’t use it once I entered elementary school.

It’s coming back, though, which is great for when the local Mexican restaurant doesn’t have chicken soup. I called in an order recently and asked for the soup in English and the guy on the other end said in an accented English that they didn’ have anyt. But when I ask a second time, in Spanish, “Ahora no tienen caldo de pollo? (You don’t have any chicken soup today?” the response changed. “Gimme about 15 minutes,” he said in Spanish. They had it ready in 10.

How did they make chicken soup so fast you ask? Well, I didn’t ask and he didn’t stay.

While I do know how to mow lawns, paint houses, work as a field laboror, I’ve eaten Chicklets, and had a lukewarm Coca-Cola with sweet bread for breakfast, I’m an American. I prefer tacos to hamburgers, and enchiladas to hot dogs, but I’m still an American.

At least that’s what my birth certificate says.


(This is where I speak in the third-person)

Oscar Gonzalez Jr. is a freelance journalist, meaning he is poor and will mow your lawn for a price, and a Mexican Coke. You can catch him on LinkedIn, on WixFacebook, and Twitter.

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