To me, being Mexican ought to be a thing of the heart, El Corazón. Or something in one’s blood, sangre. Strangely, Americans had no problem calling me “Mexican”, including some of my teachers when I was a kid. During the 40s, when some of us were ashamed or too embarrassed to call ourselves Mexican, we opted for being “Spanish”, a word we deemed had more class.
Oddly, I wound up becoming a Chicano/Mexican Studies teacher in college and my job was to teach about culture, in our case, Mexican culture and history and how it impacted who and what we immigrants of that culture have become, and how that fits into our amazing Melting Pot. Luckily, I knew about it first hand, not just from a book. Even students from Mexico or Latin America were amazed with what they learned about “their culture” in my classes.
As if in a final, sweet twist of irony, Marina, one of my Mexican students, an immigrant, raised her hand in class one day saying, “You know, Mr. Rios, I find it ironic that I was born and raised in Mexico and had to come to the United States to learn about my culture!” Asi es.