Wednesday, May 03, 2006

What Am I?

A few weeks ago, Amy posted this and I thought I might write a little bit about myself too.

Basically, I'm a mutt. I was born in Jersey, lived in Florida (Miami and Gainesville) for a few years, then moved back to Jersey. My parents, however, were born in Cuba. My mother to parents whose decendants came from Spain, and my father to parents who were born in China. My mother is a light haired, fair skinned woman with green eyes. My father is a dark haired, olive skinned man with dark dark eyes. My parents produced two children who were so "different" looking that my mother was often stopped and asked where she adopted her Asian daughters. While my sister inherited the dark skin and the very dark, straight, jet black hair and deep brown eyes, I inherited the fair skin (that always burns and never tans), the brown hair (that is neither curly nor straight, but can't hold a curler), and the hazel eyes. As a matter of fact, up until I was about four years old, my hair was golden and my eyes were green. As I got older, the color of both darkened to what I am blessed with today. My sister and I also inherited the slanted, almond shaped eyes.

So what do people say to a half-Cuban, half-Chinese girl born in New Jersey and partly raised in Florida?

"What are you?"

I simply tell them that I'm a mutt. A first generation American born to immigrants with ancesters in Spain and China. I never thought about my "different" look or that I really don't look like my mother, because as a child, everyone fawned over my sister and I, complementing us on how cute we were and how my parents had such adorable kids. And I never really considered myself anything but Spanish (or Latina, as we are called these days) because my father was so removed from his Chinese heritage. But as I got older, I realized that I am half Chinese.

When I went to college, I had dorm-mates who were Chinese and they detested me. They didn't like that I wasn't pure Chinese, that I didn't speak the language, and that I had no "tradition." They considered me fake.

When I moved back to Miami, I encountered a lot of curious people, wanting to know about my culture and background. I have been mistaken for American Indian, Filipino, Chinese, Peruvian, Mexican, and American, just to name a few. My favorite moments have been when I have been standing in an elevator or sitting in a doctor's office to hear people make rude comments in Spanish about others. I always smiled politely, and upon my exit, say my farewell in Spanish.

While traveling in Spanish-speaking countries, I have always spoken Spanish, much to the amazement of the locals. In both Spain and Argentina, the locals truly believed that I was an American who had learned to speak Spanish in school. Their reaction to me was that an American could not possibly speak Spanish. And when I visited Cuba with my parents, all my relatives were surprised to learn that I could communicate with them and express my thoughts to them clearly in Spanish.

Living in the New Jersey (and also having worked in NYC), I have found that people really don't care what you are. It seems that no one is surprised by anything and the rudeness factor is kept to a minimum. Unlike in Miami, I have never gotten any crazy questions about my looks - the most famous made to me at the
Dade County Youth Fair, where a fair goer asked me if I was "chinky."

In the end, I'm just a combination of all sorts of backgrounds - a mutt. It clearly defines who I am, but not what I am. Does that make any sense?


Amy said...

I just had a crazy dude yell at me for not being Puerto Rican. Unbelievable. We should make up our own nationality.

Annie said...

Amy - let's do it. Right after we complete our PMS CD collection, we'll work on this project!

Amy said...

Can we call it mystery race?

Annie said...

Amy - Is that like mystery meat?