… Well, according to this other nativity scene Jesus was Hispanic, and not Irish after all.
I wish I had known of Jesus’s Latin origins, then maybe I wouldn’t have been so embarrassed of growing up Puerto Rican in white suburbia.
The beginning of every school year was a nightmare, sitting there listening to my new teacher struggle to pronounce my ethnic name – which really isn’t so uncommon anymore. But, in the 80′s no one I knew had a Hispanic sounding last name; my first name wasn’t much better. One time, in high school, I was on the phone with a boy whom I was madly in love with and I heard his mom ask him who he was talking to. He responded, Katrina, and she asked “Is she black!?!” Yes, people are that stupid.
In high school I wanted nothing more than to have blond hair, a thin nose and lips, and a flat butt like the other girls. I wanted to look normal. My swarthy features did not match my pale white Irish skin tone. I resented being Hispanic and not having a tan. If I had to have the burden of racial prejudice, why God, could I not at least have the nice year round tan!?
In college, being an ethnic minority was financially advantageous and for the first time I happily checked “Hispanic” in the race box of my application. That was the closest I came to Latin American culture… except for that one song they play at Christmas time on the radio, you know, to be culturally diverse.
As a grown woman, I struggle marrying the two identities together. In childhood my access to the Puerto Rican side of my family was limited so the Latin influences weren’t there. I don’t even know Spanish except for a few phrases and the naughty words. I suppose I could confidently order a margarita in Tijuana. I know my friend’s don’t mean to leave me out of the conversation, but whenever you get a bunch of boricuas together they naturally slip into lively fast paced Spanish.
Sometimes other Latinas do not even believe I am Hispanic because I’m so white my skin is transparent and I have a ginger headed son. Others take it as a personal affront that I would claim an ethnicity and not known the Spanish language. Sadly, even some Latinas would consider me a traitor to my race for being fully Americanized and against illegal immigration.
On the flip side, a lot of white people think all Latinos look like this….
… and everyone South of Texas is Mexican. Period. Puerto Rican=Mexican. Brazilian= Mexican. Ecuadorian =Mexican. There is no distinction, kinda like Asians. When my mother announced to the family her engagement, my Irish grandmother told her not to bring any Cuban babies over when she was meeting with her Ladies Guild for tea. Cuban, Puerto Rican – eh, whatever.
It’s a strange place, racial limbo, but once I converted to Catholicism the divide seemed substantially less wide. My Sundays became a little more colorful and diverse, and a lot more accepting. I remember my first masses in downtown Nashville with the congregation of hobos, women in mantillas, and nuns in full habit. It was the strangest thing I ever experienced. I kept expecting ushers to remove the homeless people and the ladies to blow their noses with the hankies draped over their heads.
I never understand the accusation of exclusivity within The Church. In fact, once I became comfortable with the mass I became comfortable in my own skin as I found that the Catholic Church is a good place to learn and practice racial diversity. It is made up of so many different cultures that what’s one more mutt to the mix?