I've always felt a little sheepish calling myself "Hispanic" or "Latina". I'm mostly a whitey - my ancestors all came from Europe - it's just that some of them came by way of South America afterwards. In high school, probably because my Dad wrote that we sometimes spoke Spanish in the home on some form, I was invited, along with all the other hispanic students, to a special field trip away from school. I decided to go - what better than an excused absence from the daily routine of classes?
In Boulder, Colorado, "hispanic" meant mostly "Mexican", and there I was, surrounded by a sea of Mexican Americans and probably a few illegal immigrants, and the folks leading the assembly were talking about La Rasa and Hispanic Power. Once again, I felt weird and sheepish, like some kind of imposter - though no one treated me as though I didn't belong, and there were a few other classmates at the rally who I'd known in some cases since elementary school and hadn't known they were hispanic, because they, also, did not "look" the part. But I also secretly liked feeling included as someone a little different from the other Boulder whiteys.
Since then, I've put "Caucasian" and "Hispanic" on forms where it was allowed, most often feeling a little sheepish and a charlatan. It wasn't until graduate school, a few years ago, that I started to really consider what this all meant. I was working on an oral presentation for my dramaturgy class that focused on "Pan-American" playwrights. I began researching several contemporary playwrights who self-identified as Latino and discovered that many of them had similar backgrounds to mine - one North American parent and one South American, brought up in the USA, etc. Also, there is a stereotype about Latino and Latin American playwrights that I realized holds very true for my own work as a playwright - the focus on Magic Realism. In short, if these playwrights could proudly call themselves Latinas, why couldn't I?
Fast forward a couple of years later when, out of grad school for awhile, I was invited to perform in Luis Alfaro's Electricidad (a barrio take on the Greek Electra) with a budding new Seattle company called eSe Teatro, made up of a group of mostly American Latinos. Were this company in Boulder, or San Diego, it would likely be made up, again, of Latinos of mostly Mexican descent. But here in Seattle, I performed with folks of Peruvian, Cuban, Nicaraguan and Ecuadoran descent, to name a few, in addition to Chicanos. The striking thing was that, oddly, more than with any other theatre company or group I'd ever worked or socialized with, I actually felt like I belonged. They were not cliquey, and it didn't matter that I didn't "look" hispanic. I speak some Spanish and I've got a Uruguayan background, that was good enough for them.
The more work I do with eSe and the more they invite me to events and readings, the less weird and sheepish I feel about calling myself a Latina and the more I feel like there's a place for me in that rich patchwork.
Day to day thoughts, rants and mental detritus.