“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” William Shakespeare‘s Juliet spoke these words in the late 16th century. Shakespeare understood the parallels between a name and one’s identity. A rose, or any object from that matter, does not lose its value or essence simply by the name one chooses to call it.
The essence, beauty and scent of a rose lied in itself and not how the outside world saw it. Would a rose cease to smell sweet or lose its beauty if it were referred to as a “window, boots or loquacious?” Of course not.
Similarly, my place of birth qualifies me as an American citizen, but I am no less Mexican because I was born hundreds of miles east of Mexico. Growing up in the United States I felt a sense of longing for the country my parents left behind. I dreamed of walking in the plazas on a Thursday night, longed to be serenaded when I came of age and imagined celebrating Dia de Los Muertos in November. But, none of those dreams ever came to fruition. When my parents left Mexico our family lost a piece of our Mexican heritage.
Growing up American meant embracing the erroneous idea that Christopher Columbus discovered America and that Cinco de Mayo is Mexican Independence Day. It meant assimilating to a country where the history of my country was commercialized by margaritas, fajitas and a Mexican celebration that is four months shy of Mexican independence from Spanish rule. It meant feeling less American for loving “my people” and “my country,” but not Mexican enough for growing up in “El otro lado (Spanish phrase referring to the United States ‘the other side’).” There is a cultural identity crisis begging the question, “Where are you from? Are you from here or from there?”
As a first generation American, your roots are close enough to Mexico to feel connected to your country, but far enough removed to feel as though you don’t belong. You grow up with a gaping longing for home and never understanding what it is you’re missing.
So, what do you say when people ask where you’re from? Do you identify your race, ethnicity, where you were born or the place you consider home?