Home Community and Culture Being a Latinx Immigrant: A path to self-discovery

Being a Latinx Immigrant: A path to self-discovery

A Mexican woman performing a traditional healing ceremony outside Palacio Nacional, Mexico City. Photo by Estefania Mitre

Most of the time, I find it hard to define myself. Personally, the Latino/a/x identity is pretty confusing to me. Whenever I have to check a box on a form, I am confused whether I should put Latino, White, Black. Do all of these identities intersect?

I am Mexican; that’s all I know. What does being Latina mean? A simple checkbox can’t define my experience, and my experience is different from other Latino experiences. I came to this country looking for a dream.

There are times when I do not understand my peers’ jokes, or I find myself Googling slang or acronyms because I have no idea what they mean. There are times when I do not relate to the term “Latina” or “Chicana.”

The 2020 Election showed Latinxs are not a monolith and should not be treated as such. But what about those who are DACAmentados, those who came to the US to get a Bachelor’s Degree, and found a new home as I did?  Los que no son de aquí ni de allá. They are people who belong neither here nor there. 

I grew up in Mexico. Unaware of what Latina/o/x meant, and even ignorant that someday I would earn the title of being called an “immigrant.” I was raised by my mom and brother who’s thirteen years older than me. My mom’s family lives in Durango and Mexico City, we were the only ones living in Juarez. My mom moved to Juarez a year before I was born in 1997. She moved to Juarez under my dad’s promise that Juarez had better opportunities than what she had built in Durango. They wanted to start a new family, a new life; my mom packed her essentials and took my brother with her on this “new adventure.”

While my mom was trying to understand the city’s complexities, my dad was balancing off another life on the other side of the border. He was married and had another family in El Paso; they recently celebrated their 40th anniversary.

Both my mom and dad thought it would be a great idea to have one family in Mexico and another one in the United States. Long-story-short, that didn’t work out, but that’s a story for another time but my dad was never part of the picture. 

In Mexico, you can’t be too “political” or an “opinionated” woman, especially if you are the youngest in your family and are always on the fence since you live in what was considered one of the world’s most dangerous cities.

My mom always feared for my life, worried that someone would take my life for being a woman. She had friends who lost their daughters due to the violence in Juarez. She was afraid that could happen to me someday.

As seen in Marisela Escobedo’s story, one of the most popular femicide cases, she tried to fight the system. After years of seeking justice for her daughter’s femicide, she was killed outside the Chihuahua governor’s office. That event itself shifted my family’s mindset.” It’s better not to have an opinion and move on.” Thus, not having a political opinion.

From that point, I’ve learned while democracy is a beautiful concept, but it was, unfortunately, a utopia.

Additionally, it is hard to define your political affiliation in Mexico since the political parties’ lines are blurred due to the high levels of corruption.

I was always afraid to take la ruta, the bus, by myself. There were times where my mom and I would go to Juarez Downtown, and she would make me dress up as a boy; I would wear my brother’s pants, sweatshirt, a beanie with my hair tied up.

It all changed when my dad decided to make up all the years of lies and absence and start my residency process.

Since my parents never got married, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) required extra documentation to prove my father was my father. The process started when I was 16 years old and concluded four months after I turned 19.

It was a wild ride: from DNA tests to sending a photo album of nearly 150 photos with English and Spanish captions and dates. That’s only a fragment of how complicated the U.S. immigration system is.

I became a resident three months before turning 18 years old. By law, if you are a minor and any of your parents are citizens, you become an American citizen once you step foot in U.S. territory. That’s what happened to me. However, almost nobody seems to understand that, not even the U.S. Department of State. After I requested my U.S. passport, we had to start the process again since there was “no proof” that I was lawfully a citizen.

A year went by, and on December 25th, 2017, as my “Christmas gift,” I received my American passport that states I am a U.S. citizen born in a foreign country. During that time, I was newly living in El Paso. I got my first job in a fast-food restaurant and enrolled in the local community college. I was previously living for some time with my dad but decided to part ways for the sake of my mental health.

That was not the only change I experienced during that year, I went through an identity shift; I became a new, different person.

Just as viewpoints shift with age, peoples’ stances also change when they move to a new place.  

Once I left my dad’s house, I changed my name to the name I go by because I wanted to be this different person who finally felt free. I was in a place where no one knew me. A place where my mom didn’t have to worry or fear for my life. A place where I can have and freely express my opinion

Yet, I don’t see myself as a Latina, Chicana, or Mexican. Each time I talk to my friends from Juarez, they call me “gringa,” or “malinchista“. When I talk to people from the States, it feels as though I should prove myself, or they look down on me and say, “Oh, yes, Montana, in case you didn’t know that’s a state.” For the record, before I started the residency process, my dad lied to me and made me study American politics, history, and geography; he said I needed to know the basics before becoming a citizen.

None of those “boxes” genuinely represent who I am.

All of that inspired me to write, find my voice, and talk about politics, gender, and social justice. Concepts that, for the longest, were forbidden or new to me.  

In the end, I’m someone who is standing between these lines.

Estefania Mitre
Estefania Mitrehttp://estefaniamitre.com
Estefania is a freelance journalist and a student at the University of Texas at El Paso, studying Multimedia Journalism and Marketing. Estefania has experience reporting on Latinx culture, social justice, music, and life on the border.
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