The question of identity is a question that brings up severe panic in me. Questions like “what are you?” only serve to reinforce the idea that I’m different. People, regardless of race, treat me as some sort of museum piece. American racial classification demand simplification ignoring the complexities of mixed-race people like myself. The primary reason why I obsess over my racial identity is that I don’t have the same access to the traditional useful constructs of race. I’m described as racially ambiguous by the public at large. I expect very little from the United States — a country that decided to lump me into the all encompassing title of “Latino” and “Hispanic.” These two labels inherently ignore my racial makeup. My identity is attached to a monolithic group which simply does not exist.
Being Mestizo is like being caught in between two worlds. My left foot rests firmly in the cobble streets of Europe while the other is barefoot, soaking the earth beneath me like a sponge in Latin America. The problem is that I can’t claim either one. Being an American Mestizo is a marker for my two identities; the benevolent (Native American) and the wicked (Spanish/European). I’m neither white nor Indigenous. I’m an amalgamation of both, but my understandings of these two identities are weakened because of the dominance of American culture.
Thinking about these matters has challenged me as a Latino. It’s made my life harder and confusing but much more rewarding. For instance, I’m in a constant search for my Indigenety, but how exactly do I fit into that being a mixed-race American? Being Indigenous in Latin America brings fourth an array of cultural and racial characteristics that has gone under very little fusion when compared to the dominance of Mestizaje. The way Indigenous is defined in South America and the Caribbean differs greatly in the sense of its unsullied culture and identity. One relies on their Indigeneity by mixture while the other puts emphases on language and culture not so easily found in dominant (mixed) Mestizo society. The way Indigeneity is looked at gives me a better understanding into how cultures develop their ties with their native past, but it also confuses me and my sense of identity. Some people use their Indigeneity to absolve undesirable verities found within their own racial identity (usually anti-blackness). Even within Latin America there is no clear cut definition of Mestizo and Indigenous. Sometimes the way you look depletes your racial makeup, affecting the way society ultimately treats you.
In what public discourse does the reference of mixed-race people exist? America is still trying to figure out how to handle the complexities of white and black. My features, however, are a product of mixture. My eyes, the color of my hair, my yellow undertone all contributes to a fusion that has created someone who’s not so easily identifiable, yet in the United States my race is not counted. Race can be a fragile topic for many. It’s a complex system that can easily damage one’s identity, and once that identity is damaged, it can’t be so easily restored.
There is no movement up for Latinos that is not accompanied by the issue of race. We sometimes choose to ignore the elephant in the room in favor for solidarity; however, ignoring such issues will only serve to exacerbate a problem that has existed since colonial times. My two identities circle my mind creating a twister that no doubt will destroy my very being. I become obsessed in examining my race and culture, wondering which label best describes me as a person. I try to cause a sensation using Mestizo as bait, exploiting it to clarify my racial relationship to myself and others. What I think and do is already put into practice with how I handle my complex emotions on topics that mean so dear to me that I sometimes unknowingly end up sacrificing my mental health for.