I went to a Mexican Restaurant recently and got up to use the bathroom. As I passed through the restaurant on my way to the bathroom I was stopped by several customers requesting that I get a refill of their drink or an extra glass of water. I smiled and kept moving along. As I was returning to my seat, I was stopped by another patron requesting a menu, again I smiled as I headed for my table.

When you got up to pay and saw me sitting there having lunch with my mother, you looked away, I saw the embarrassment in your face. Yes, I don’t work here, yes I’m a Mexican and this is a Mexican restaurant, a logical error you tell yourself.

I’m a Mexican, but I’m an American first. I was born and raised in the USA, Monterey Bay, “California” to be exact. I was born a US citizen like my mother before me. My children and grandchildren were born here too. See me, I’m an American first.

I went to the bank to deposit my check and pick up some deposit slips. I saw two women in the back of the teller window look up, then discuss who should be assisting me with my transactions. A few minutes later I saw a young woman who was brown like me ask if I needed help ” Como puedo ayudarte?”  I walked up to the teller’s window, and said, “I speak English, and I would like to make a deposit.” The young woman looked at me knowingly and smiled. The other Tellers looked up, embarrassed at the wrong assumption.

I’m Mexican-American and English is my first language, the language spoken to me by both my mother and father ,who were both fluent in Spanish as well. While my parents spoke to us frequently in Spanish they understood the importance of us mastering English, as we were after all, Americans. The reality is I scored that day at the bank because I understood what the teller was asking me and this is not always the case. I’m brown, but I do not speak Spanish like it rolls off my tongue, and is second nature to me. See me, I’m an American first with excellent English speaking skills.

I was in a grocery store recently and overheard two people talking about sending all of the Mexicans back to Mexico and building a wall to keep the Mexicans out. When you turned and saw me you both looked defiant and righteous, you are after all Americans, and you belong here. But, I’m brown and you think I don’t.

Not all Mexicans are from Mexico nor did we all arrive illegally or through the use of a coyote. We are first, second, third and fourth generation Mexican-Americans. Many of us were born in the US, went to US schools and worked legal US jobs. We volunteered in organizations that assisted people of all colors never insisting that we serve just one sector. See me, I’m an American  and I’m here to stay, no walls or deportation in order for me.

 

It was Cinco de Mayo, and I was at the mall shopping. Some people around me were talking about the partying they would be doing for Cinco de Mayo. As I looked up one young women said, “I bet the party is awesome at your house for Cinco de Mayo”. I smiled and kept on shopping.

I’m Mexican American and as I said before, American first. I do not celebrate Cinco de Mayo or Mexican Independence Day which are both celebrated in the USA, without a complete understanding of what they mean or what history says about them. I’m a Mexican -American and I celebrate the Fourth of July, Labor Day, Memorial Day and all holidays Americans recognize.  See me, I’m a patriot and love my country of America, the same country my father and uncles fought for as US Army serviceman.

I took a crock pot of food to share for a holiday party one year to share with my co-workers. I made a bread pudding. Some co-workers voiced their disappointment with what I brought, they stated they were hoping for some homemade Mexican food.

I’m Mexican -American and the reality is that while I love tortas, enchiladas and tacos this is not the main staple in my diet day in and day out. In fact, I rarely make Mexican food. I love making Korean, Japanese and American dishes. I don’t make a pot of beans daily or handmade tortillas and other food items associated with being a Mexican. Mexican food is a treat in my house too and made with appreciation for my ancestors when I do make it. See me, I’m an American first, I love all foods of every culture and embrace our bountiful foods with respect and gratitude for all that everyone shares with me.

When I was in the second grade, I became ill and needed to be sent home. The nurse asked what agricultural field my parents worked in so they could get a hold of my parents. She did not bother to check my Emergency Card information where she would have found the correct information:

Father- Ramon Vasquez, Hartnell College Instructor, Business Administration

Mother-Rosemary Vasquez, County of Monterey, County Communications, 911 Emergency Dispatcher.

Yes, both of my parents worked in respective fields and not in agricultural fields as day laborers.

There is no shame in working in agricultural fields and I have nothing but the greatest respect for those who do, and work so hard to put that fresh salad on my table. See me, I’m Mexican-American and not all Mexicans work in agricultural fields, we are educated, and outstanding contributors to our communities.

See me, who am I? I’m Rose an American born in the USA and proud to be an American of Mexican descent. I read, write, vote, volunteer and work. I’m a business owner, entrepreneur, consultant and respectful of all cultures. I’m a daughter, sister, mother, grandmother and most important I’m here to stay in my America with every right as all Americans have. Yes, my skin is brown, I may not look like you or as some of you have commented, “What is your ethnicity, you look exotic”. Which translates to me as are you an Indian or Mexican? I guess if you researched my ancestry you would find that I do have both Mexican and Indian relatives in my family tree. Something I’m both equally proud of.

See me, I’m not so unlike you-American.

 

Rose Vasquez

 

Photo Credit: I See Me by silviadinatale on Flickr; used under creative commons license.

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