Mexican-American by Amanda Rosas

Mexican-American. Latino/a. Are the hyphens and slashes connecting these forces more like borders or bridges, separating or unifying to the touch? Why can’t I superimpose Mexican and American so that they Rest upon each other like stacked hands, and then maybe we would see transparently, the redundancy of those two worlds.

I cannot occupy entirely one or the other, so I live within that hyphen, on that see-sawing slash.
I become the bridge, a body split, but connected as one. For years it was a contemplative space of confusion.

With age I have created a home on this terrain of the in between, a space of self-portrait that embodies my family and my fate. Thin though it was, it expanded with the shelter of self-love, too many years in the making.

Remembrance: I am sixteen years old and just received my driver’s license. In class, I show my friends, no barriers around my pride. The redhead, she blurts, “you look like a mojado!”

A wetback, because it was spring a more intense shade of dirty bronze. I grabbed my ID with feigned anger and it would not be until decades later that I could cradle this offense in real anger. That I could bear to see her racism for what it was: not only an affront to me, but also to the hardworking, last resort, fire-in their courage-Mexican migrants seeking asylum beyond the Río Grande, trading one form of poverty and discrimination for another.

Remembrance: I am a junior in college and my parents give me a car to live off-campus. My five friends-turned-housemates pile into my hunter green Toyota Camry. It’s crowded and unsafe, and one of them says, “We are piled in here like a bunch of spics . . . oh . . . sorry, Amanda.”  And when this happens, when I feel like the Mexican border stereotype materializes on my face, I play nice. I play quiet. But to this day, I can’t decide what stings more: the racial slur that “accidentally” tumbled out of her or the apology that followed it.

Retrospectively I recognize how these kinds of experiences fortified me, guided me through the grit of growing a dual pride. I became whole and decided that this punctuated stretch of mestizaje is part of the map of who I am and who I want to be. Emerging through the inter-realm of a seemingly incidental hyphen, this land from within, has not only a story of racism and hanging shoulders, but of truth-seeking and resilience. This story has the power to weave in and out of Spanish, English, Aztec, Mayan, European, their dirt and bloodlines flowing over the bridges, surpassing the stick-like borders creating my own unique, muddy prism of being.

Can you see how a border can be a bridge? Seek out that space where the two connect, where the
lines can begin to blur, blend even, and transform the division into one-complicated-yet fully human dignity.

Photo of a natural bridge
Photo by Alyssa Deardorff from Pexels

Amanda Rosas
Amanda Rosas is a mother, runner, teacher and poet. She draws beauty, strength and creativity from the Latina women in her family and from her husband and three young daughters. Originally from San Antonio, Amanda works to preserve the memories of her Mexican-American ancestors. She teaches Spanish and women’s studies at Visitation School and has designed the Activism and Latino/a/x Identity courses for One Schoolhouse. As an educator, Amanda infuses social justice, storytelling, BIPOC history and youth empowerment into her lessons. In her writing and teaching, Amanda emphasizes our human connections to one another, building unity for future generations.

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