Identity & Diversity
The first week in Merida and at Universidad de Yucatan was less than ideal. On the small end of the scale: a machine ate my credit card, the phone chip I bought didn’t work in my phone and I couldn’t return it, there was an alacran, a non-poisonous scorpion, in my room. These were only small issues compared to the social anxiety I felt during my first week in classes.
It had been a year and a half since I had taken a Spanish language class and therefore I felt (and continue to feel) behind my peers. Out of a small program of seven, there are two native speakers of Spanish, and two whom had already undertaken a study abroad in the Latin America. The two native speakers are Chicanos from the West coast and the rest of us were North American and learned Spanish only in school. Being the only Southerner, the only Latina, and the only one who identifies as a Mexican-American or Tejano, not Chicana, who is not a native speaker has felt very alienating among my peers. In Texas, a state I’m very prideful to have been raised in, identifying as a Chicano or being called a Chicano is not as readily accepted. Persons of Latin American origin who live in Texas are much more likely to identify as Latino, Hispanic, and commonly Mexican-American.
Spending time with other Latinos from around the U.S. has been a learning experience that I’m glad to have undertaken. It has confirmed something I knew to be true – that despite the fact that Latinos in the United States are often homogenized in the discourse of the media, we represent a wide variety of opinions, cultures, values, and colors.
The diversity of Latinos we see in the United States is also true of the diversity of people and cultures that exist in México. My program is hosted in the state of Yucatan in the capital of Mérida. Similar to Texas, many people from here identify as yucatecos rather than mexicanos. In 1823, the Yucatan Peninsula actually was it’s own independent republic for seven years this was actually 13 years before the Texas Declaration of Independence was signed. I find anywhere I travel I can find a way to connect the culture or history to my state. In my classes here on Mesoamerica, the culture of the Mayas, and racism in indigenous communities, I’m learning that the pre-Hispanic cultures represent an even greater among of diversity than the current post-Hispanic population has to offer.