Tori Noriega Tori is a student at Pace University in New York City and Creative Director/Staff Writer at TFP. You can visit Tori's blog at- www.dailylifeofvictoria.com/
Coming to a point where you’re comfortable with yourself and where you fit in is something that takes people years to attain. It sometimes takes some people their whole lives. Until recently, I still struggle with it, but I’ve come to a point where I’m comfortable with who I am and where I come from. That’s something I’ve always craved. I come from a large Mexican family that has immense pride in where they’re from and they’re not afraid to say it. My dad came from Mexico at the young age of 12 and my mom’s family came from Mexico, but she grew up in South Texas on the border of Mexico. They both grew up around a strong influence of Mexican culture, but around a lot of American culture as well. When I came into this world I was born in North East Texas in Dallas. My life has been always full of American culture; I was hardly around Mexican culture. My grandparents moved in with me when I was five years old and that was the biggest blessing I could have ever asked for. I was taught the beautiful language of Spanish and given more of a sense of where my family came from. I was still going to a predominantly white school in a middle-class neighborhood. Most of my friends were white and I really didn’t get a full sense of the Tejano culture. I was pointed out for being different. My curls were always a topic of discussion with people pulling at them and trying to run their hands through them. I felt embarrassed that it made me stick out so much around everyone else. I felt odd that no one else knew Spanish except for me and if they did it was butchered and not spoken well. Most of my friend’s parents weren’t as apparent in their lives like mine were. All these little things built up to make me self-conscious of how different I was. When I left that school, I moved to another school, which was even whiter high class neighborhood. Now that I had moved I became even more nervous. I started becoming self-conscious of how much more hair I'd grow than my friends and how I felt like I was maturing physically faster than everyone else. When I would tell people that I was Mexican the first words that were uttered were, “You don’t look Mexican”. What does that mean? What does looking Mexican look like? I was told I looked “too white” to be Mexican. I didn’t understand. At first everyone would be intrigued as to where I came from because “I looked so exotic”, but when they found out I was “just Mexican” it gave them a bad taste in their mouth. I was asked if my family were “maids and gardeners” as if those are lesser jobs or the only jobs Mexicans can do. I began to straighten my hair every day and I stopped speaking Spanish as much. I didn’t want to stand out anymore. I wanted to fit in. To this day that is my biggest regret. Then I would go to Hispanics and try to fit in. I am a Hispanic woman, but I was “too white”. My Spanish wasn’t perfect and of course, I was born in America. I wasn’t the typical Mexican. I didn’t grow up around the Tejano culture and I didn’t understand the mariachis or the importance of Selena. I knew some part of the Tejano culture, but I hadn’t grown up around that. Just recently I was told that I wasn’t a “real Mexican” because I didn’t come from Mexico personally. I am not connected to my Mexican culture as much as I would like and I wish I would have listened to my grandfather more when he would explain, because I do love being a Tejana. I am not the stereotypical mold of one, no. I am not extremely tan, I didn’t grow up in a low-income family, I don’t speak perfect Spanish and my idol when I was little wasn’t Selena. My idols were Shakira and Salma Hayek. I didn’t grow up around bodegas at every corner. I grew up in a white neighborhood and they also didn’t accept me like I would have liked them to. I am a middle ground of both worlds. I will not be looked down upon because my mom worked her ass off to get out of a low-income neighborhood and make something of herself. I will not be looked down upon because I take pride in being Mexican, but I still hang out in predominantly white situations. I will not be looked down upon because my family comes from immigrants, because they worked to get to where they are and how they got here. I didn’t do those things, I know. I didn’t cross the border with my family and I didn’t come out of a low-income family. I am a privileged person. I am fully aware, but I will use that to my advantage to further the visibility of people who can’t do it themselves. I am a proud of mixture of American culture and Mexican culture and that’s something that I will not let be taken away from.