Chapter 1: My Mexican O.C.
One of the first assignments I got in my Canadian (multicultural) university was to write a profile about a classmate. I don’t remember who interviewed who first. Yet, I remember thinking after hearing her life story that my life and person were not worthy of a profile.
I didn’t go to an international school. English was never as important as my mother tongue; it was always secondary. I didn’t have a journalist aunt in New York, and I definitely didn’t want to write about fashion.
Another reason why I felt that my life was not worthy of a profile was that I’m just middle class. I’m not rich nor poor. I don’t have any loans to pay. I’m not in debt. The drought is not affecting my food options. In fact, I’m usually overwhelmed by my food options. Chicken or beef? Rice or noodles? Salad or fries? Cookies or cake? Chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry? Would you like the combo? Supersize?
Classmate: Where are you from?
Me: Mexico. I’m from Monterey. Monterrey. Monterey. South of Texas?!
I’m never sure how to pronounce my city’s name. If I pronounce it as an English speaker, I feel like a gringo who can’t pronounce the “rr.” If I pronounce it as a Spanish speaker, then I give to the listener the opportunity to comment on my sexy linguistic capacity to enunciate the “rr” sound.
Classmate: Why did you come to Toronto?
Me: To study university (I have no fucking idea! You’re talking too fast, I hate my accent, I don’t know what I’m doing in this classroom, can I leave now?)
Classmate: Why Toronto?
Me: Don’t know. I just didn’t want to be in my city anymore.
Me: Not sure, I just never felt that I belong there. It’s way too superficial, too American.
Classmate: Oh! It’s like your O.C.
*This is not a verbatim transcription
I saw that show a couple of times, and maybe she was right. Or maybe she just needed to associate my world to something familiar so my world wouldn’t be that unknown. Like when you describe an animal you’ve never seen before and you name a ‘mainstream’ animal and add the quality that makes them another animal. Bison? It’s like a bull, but with a lot of hair.
It’s a little bit weird to talk about my city and the life I had there. I’ve been living outside of it for almost five years now (2013 update: I’m back!), and obviously my perspective on it has been shaped by my immigrant experience and my “leftist first-world education.” The version I tell will be automatically distorted. In addition, my language has been politicized and it’s little bit more proper.
Before, I said that my city was really superficial and American. Now, I’d probably say that its social stratification has increased due to American imperialism and the cultural hegemony created by globalization. I could improve this sentence, but I finished university more than a year ago so I can’t remember well how to say nonsense. I’m kind of done with political rhetoric and euphemisms.
The main reason why I left my city was because my reality was too overwhelming and there was no space for it in society. I ran away. Ironically, now I want to leave Toronto because of the same reasons, though they are more mature now.
Now I know, however, that it’s not about the city. It’s about me. It’s not about the superpowers of this world who exploit and neglect people. It’s not about this capitalist society that creates false needs and turns us into consumers. It’s not about the revolutionaries who question the status quo and live in isolation, yet they are ‘real.’ It’s not about the intellectual who explains our world and discovers the unknown truth that will be the origin of the revolution and the cause of our death. It’s not about the dreamer who is an artist and wants to create his own unique surreal world. It’s not about the activist whose humanitarian work is raising awareness and making a “difference.” And it’s definitely not about the woman who’s working the land of the white in Central America. It’s just about my mundane self.
Leaving my O.C. to come to the cosmopolitan city of Toronto and the human rights defender country of Canada was a big change (Please note my sarcasm). My city is an industrial city, not a town in Mexico, yet you will have a hard time finding a black person.
At the tender age of 18, I discovered my beautiful country was a third world country, and soon I was going to be from a developing country. Suddenly, my life was being analyzed through political and economic lens, and my identity was being defined by categories I never though of.
My big ass made me Latin, even though I always felt more North American. Now, I know that I’m Latin because I speak Spanish yet Mexico has always been so isolated from Latin America. Well, at least for me who lived two hours away from the border and my vacations were in Texas.
My accent made me Spanish, yet that didn’t make sense to me because that word reminded me of Spain. And my Spanish is from Mexico. I don’t speak Mexican. After many lectures on colonization, I’m not proud of any type of Spanish. Ironically, I got angry at our Spanish colonizers when I got here. In elementary school, I learnt about Colombus and Cortez, but they never looked evil. We were even proud of them!
I became an immigrant. I couldn’t identify with that word, though. In my mind, it had a different connotation. It reminded me of the chicanos. My physical appearance made me exotic and indigenous. Indigenous? How dare you?
I became anti-white living in a white world having a white lifestyle and white dreams and goals. I developed a strong leftist vision of the world and human rights became my passion. I wanted to be the voice of the voiceless, yet I felt offended when defined as voiceless. They are my people, but I’m not my people.
* This is post #3 of my serie of stories “UNEDITED”