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My So-Called Hispanic Life
By Gloria Diaz
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Fort Wayne Reader
Hispanics have gotten a lot of press recently, both favorable and unfavorable. More Americans are aware of this group, and thankfully for me, Cameron Diaz became famous, so more people know how to pronounce my last name. It’s a good thing too, because I thought I’d have to get married to an Anglo in order to get a surname that was easy to pronounce.
Television seems like it's hitting the elusive balance of having sitcoms with Hispanics be interesting without being demeaning or clueless. If George Lopez is being watched by non-Hispanics, they must be doing something right. Same thing with Ugly Betty. However, George Lopez is an employed family man. Lots of men can identify with that role, and wives are wives, no matter what the ethnic background. America Ferrera is doing the pez-out-of-agua thing with her role as an assistant to a guy running a fashion magazine. If her character’s last name weren’t Suarez, it would still work. Dark-haired women with glasses who weigh more than 100 pounds pretty much would stick out at any fashion magazine.
That being said, I’ve not written very much about my experience as a Hispanic woman, because I don’t feel Hispanic. Oh sure, growing up I encountered the occasional racial/ethnic slur, but probably nowhere near the amount of crap my dad had to put up with. I don’t wake up every day thinking, “I’m a Hispanic woman, therefore I must prove myself.” I grew up in a predominantly Caucasian neighborhood I still live in, because I was too lazy (and poor) to move out. I didn’t have a “quinceńera.” My brother was involved in youth hockey out at McMillen. Almost all of my friends were Anglo, with one exception. I never joined any groups that identified themselves as being Hispanic. No, “Hispanic Beatle Fans of Northeast Indiana,” no “Hispanic Journalists of America,” no “Hispanic Pessimists Who Might Seriously Be Depressed and Like To Sleep Late and Eat Junk Food of America.” Because, ironically, I think people who identify as being Hispanic don’t see me as being “Hispanic enough.”
On the flip side, non-Hispanics are aware that I’m not exactly “one of them.” No, it’s just me and my half Puerto Rican, half German background, with perhaps a smattering of Native American Indian (both sides) thrown in. I stumped plenty of people in the past, though. After a three-week vacation in Puerto Rico the summer before seventh grade, a few of my fellow inmates at my horrible middle school thought I was black (back then, you were “black,” not “African-American.”) In college, someone asked if I was Greek or Macedonian.
Personally, I can’t wait to take a test a friend told me about. You send the company a sample of either your blood or skin cells, and they will tell you exactly what races/ethnicities you are made up of. When I find out, I plan to apply for scholarships aimed toward whatever race/ethnicity I can claim, no matter how tiny the percentage may be. Am I five percent Swedish? Ten percent Russian? Two percent Pacific Islander? Doesn’t matter to me! I’m applying for those scholarships. If I’m destined to go to graduate school, I sure as hell don’t want to pay for it. I’ll let the Granddaughters of Puerto Rican Musicians Who Dropped Dead of a Heart Attack Scholarship Fund take care of that.