There are, I firmly believe, three types of Hispanic immigrants in this country: The ones that come to the U.S. and turned out to behave more like gringos than the ones descendants of the Mayflower. They surround themselves exclusively of American friends or any other foreigner as long as is not Hispanic. They forget how to dance merengue and they all dance like Justin Timberlake, listen only to music in English conveniently forgetting the many times they swayed, sang out loud, and closed their eyes to a well played salsa. They mispronounce words in Spanish like any other gringo would while learning the language and pretty much make the rest of us feel like smacking them in the head with a blunt object. Kinda like my brother.
Then there are the ones that become militantly patriotic about the land they left behind. They put flags on their bumper stickers, wear their country’s football (soccer) jersey to a wedding, tattoo their flag on their ass and wont date, befriend, talk to or associate in any way, shape or form (aside from work) to anybody that doesn’t speak their language and knows how to dance a mean merengue. They spout to anyone who will listen about the shortcomings of this country and the many wonders of their own. The food here sucks, the women are sluts, the music is a shame, the parties are lame, the people are racist, life is too hard, the cops too stiff and won’t accept a bribe for the DUI. Conveniently forgetting the reasons why they are here, the fact that they drive a 2010 car that back home they couldn’t dream to afford and that they have a home here that they would have had to sell their souls for if they were in their awesome home country.
Then there is category I fall under. The ones that love home with a feverish passion but are as fervently determined to make the best of this. To make this home. To HAVE a home, you know? With four walls and a roof? It is so much easier to own a home here; I couldn’t help but want that for me too.
I want this place to be home. Sometimes I feel I’ve made it, sometimes I feel like this is home. I feel defensive when someone speaks ill of the country and feel compelled to defend it. Sometimes I say “us” instead of “them”, I say “we” instead of “you” putting myself in the place of an American when I so clearly am not.
When I’m feeling so patriotic I am about to burst into a rendition of “America the Beautiful”
And they won’t let me forget it.
For every person who has called me a spic there is also someone else who would sat me down and asked me about my stories about home and is truly interested about my background. I remembered clearly the first time someone said “spic” in front of me, everyone around me bristled like a porcupine in my behalf (kind of like Ron did when Draco called Hermione a mud-blood) and I had no idea what it meant or even less of a clue that they were talking about me. I have discovered that every mean spirited person who has called me a wetback or a spic and asked me to go milk a cow (I haven’t even seen a cow in my life!) is usually someone who has some teeth missing, is fairly familiar with buying gin from the 7-11 from the corner and bumping kin.
I wish I could say I haven’t felt like crying when someone thinks me less for coming from where I come from but for that every someone there is someone else who asks me to teach them how to dance salsa, and calls me for a recipe for empanadas. I have been so incredibly lucky in my experience coming here. I have been accepted by my husband’s family and my family loves my husband with such fierceness it makes my mean heart beat a little faster.
It all could’ve gone so incredibly wrong. I could’ve been like one of those unlucky immigrants who stand in the Walmart parking lot and get picked up with a promise of a day-work and get the shit kicked out of them by some dickheaded hick who doesn’t like them because they are Mexican, or Guatemalan, or Honduran. I could have been one of them, beat up and nursing my bruises in a small apartment that I share with other 12 people. I could’ve struggled with the language I could’ve been one of those poor souls who came here alone to brave the loneliness, and the isolation and that horrible feeling of not belonging. It could’ve been me, so easily.
I try not to forget because every time I watch TV in my flat screen and every time I sleep in my comfortable bed, every time I kiss my lily-white husband and every time I see him clumsily and shamelessly dance salsa in front of my family I am reminded of how damn lucky I am and that every damn struggle was worth it.