I am a Mexican!


The Finish Line

What do you call someone of Hispanic descent? I am truly confused about what to call myself. I have heard a lot of terms, good and bad, to describe Spanish speakers or people from Spanish-speaking countries, for example, Latino, Hispanic, Latin-American, Mexican-American, and on the negative side, beaner, spik, and wetback.

But what should I call myself? What term should I use to describe myself? None of the terms seem adequate. Latino, Hispanic, and Latin-American are too all-encompassing and include a lot of Spanish-speaking nations, but they don’t describe any of my individual characteristics. And let’s not forget that I have been born and raised in the United States of America as an American citizen.

When I think back to my childhood, I used to tell everyone, “I’m Mexican.” When I was a student at the Lithuanian Catholic grade school Holy Cross, the nuns would ask me what nationality I was and I would answer, “I’m Mexican.” Sometimes when visitors came to class, the nuns would tell the visitor, “This is David. He’s a nice Mexican boy.” Now that I look back, that seems to be the best term to use today in our politically correct times.

Let me explain. If I say that I am a Mexican-American, that seems redundant. I was born in the USA to parents who emigrated from Mexico and I speak fluent English. My parents were born in Mexico and were citizens of Mexico. My mother eventually became a naturalized U.S. citizen. If you asked my parents what they were, they would reply, “Somos mexicanos” in Spanish. So when I say, “I’m Mexican” in English, without a Mexican accent–okay, perhaps a bit of a south side accent–, I imply that I am an American citizen of Mexican descent. If I were a Mexican national living in the USA, living and working here, legally or otherwise, I would say, “Soy mexicano,” perhaps even because I couldn’t speak English.

So I say to you, “I am a Mexican,” in English, without a Mexican accent, but with a south side Chicago accent. Do you hear me? I am a MEXICAN!

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David Diego Rodríguez, Ph.D.

I write about whatever comes to mind. También enseño español y escribo acerca de los mexicanos y la enseñanza del español.