The color of my skin, texture of my curls, and sound of my accent does not solely define who I am. I define myself as Mariela De Loa, a Catholic, Mexican-American young woman. My adolescence consisted of me growing up in a middle class household with my mother, father, and three siblings. From a young age my parents embeded religious morals into my norms and values. I was taught to put God above all and treat those around me with respect. My parents also enforced the Spanish language while I was growing up. By the time I entered kindergarten, Spanish was my dominant language, so I couldn’t speak English as well.
It was difficult for me to get along with other kids because none of them looked like me or spoke the same language as me. Essentially, my family always taught me to never forget about my roots, specifically my Mexican culture. I always wondered why it was so important because after all, we weren’t living in Mexico, we were living in the USA. Growing up, I remember seeing my parents come home from work everyday, exhausted. Their lives were extremely difficult compared to mine, especially as children. Both of my parents barely graduated high school and were not able to attend college, this really created a dent in their futures.
Without a proper college education, it was very hard for my parents to find jobs. Moreover, my parents found stable jobs and worked very hard every single day so that my siblings and I had a home to live in, food on the table, and the best education we could possibly get. I didn’t understand why my parents wanted to keep us at an expensive school, when they could barely pay our bills, but now I know why. When I was younger, adults, such as family members asked me what I wanted to be when I was older. I responded with lawyer or doctor and one individual stared at me with a bewildered face.
They even told me, “Wow, you’re Mexican and you want to become doctor? Good luck with that. ” These indirect oppressors are why many minorities do not feel as if they are good enough to pursue a career like this. Comments like these only make me want to work harder, so that I can prove casual monsters and society wrong. I want to teach young children who are minorities that if one truly wants to become something extraordinary in life, that they absolutely can be it. Inspiring other individuals has become a priority in my life because ultimately, I want help others that aren’t motivated enough to follow their dreams.
Mexicans, like African Americans, are a minority in the United States, meaning that we are not as often exposed to the same opportunities as individuals with white skin, blue eyes, and blonde hair. Many Latinos living in the US are undocumented, or also referred to as illegal. Growing up as a minority has definitely had an impact on my perspective about society and my everyday experiences. Many ignorant individuals assume that an individual is undocumented if they are Latino, speak Spanish, and have low wage jobs, but this is false.
Some people look down upon Latinos because they see them as inferior individuals, but race does not define an individual’s abilities to be successful. As a child, I attended a Catholic school with many of my peers of Asian descent. It was difficult for me to interact with many of my classmates because I felt as if my race was a wall that divided me from many of the others kids. When I was in Kindergarten, I specifically remember walking up to a young girl and speaking to her in Spanish. She looked back at me as if I were crazy because she did not know a word I was saying.
In times like these, I was ashamed of who I was and I wanted to be like the other girls. Moreover, humans should never be ashamed of where they come from; they should be proud of who they are. I think about my adolescence and regret being ashamed of being Mexican. Due to being one of few Latinos in my elementary class, I remember Spanish class being very easy for me because I already was a fluent speaker. Although excelled in Spanish class, I was ashamed of having the words flow out of my mouth so perfectly. I recall pretending to not know how to say words or speaking as if I did not know the language.
I look back on these memories and it makes me sad to think that I needed to pretend to be somebody else, rather than being myself. Now, I’m so grateful that I grew up in a home where my parents highly enforced me to speak Spanish. Growing up with Spanish as my first and primary language was a difficult barrier to surpass. I worked very hard to speak and write English as well as many of the students in my class. Entering high school with honors English and Spanish was something I am very proud of and proves that all of my work to know both languages fluently really paid off.
I want to set an example for other Spanish speakers, so that they know that one can be fluent in more than one language and how being bilingual can open many doors for an individual in the future. Being of Latina descent has definitely impacted my life in many aspects. I have been told that I can’t do certain things and have been called names that attack where I come from, although these negative comments have certainly slowed me down, they haven’t stopped me. Society throws many messages at young Latinas such as myself, telling us that we can only have certain careers or that we cannot have high positions in society.
I’m truly blessed to be able to attend a school where teachers, classmates, and friends motivate me to do whatever I want to do with my life. I owe it all to my parents for taking me out of a dangerous city where I would have been surrounded by drugs and violence, and could be attending, Richmond High. Without the education I have been receiving all my life, I most likely would not believe that I have the ability to pursue any career: 1 am the driver of my own future. I choose if I want to make the wrong turns, but a I can also follow the right path.
Although at times I may fall off onto the side of the road, there will always e individuals there to help push me back onto the road again. I’m very fortunate to have individuals who mentor me and who push me to become the absolute best I can be. My parents do not pressure me to be an A student, but they certainly make it clear that they want me to try my best in everything that I do. I’ve reached moments in my life where I get discouraged because I don’t see any Mexican women that are doctors or lawyers, but I want to break away from society’s norms and show other Mexican-American girls that we can become doctors, lawyers, politicians, and so on.
Individuals aggravate me when they stereotype Mexicans as lazy or uneducated. Many humans do not know the true back story of what it means to be an Mexican immigrant. I have heard personal experiences from family members, like my grandparents about how hard it was to immigrate from Mexico to the United State. My grandmother was only 16 when she came to US, but my life is completely different than what her teenage vears consisted of. When my grandmother arrived to the US, she immediately started working in the Central Valley picking fruits and vegetables in the scorching hot sun.
From there she move onto a sewing company, when she sewed for more than 8 hours a day, with no benefits and low paying wages. I look at my grandmother’s life and glance back at my current situation; I attend a College prep school and she didn’t, she had to work for 8 hours underneath the sun to make a living, while I complained about sitting in a desk for a desk for 8 hours listening to lectures to which she would’ve enjoyed listening.
My generation consists of many individuals of color or Latino descent who have to work like my grandmother did, or who do not have the opportunity to attend a College Prep school. From a young age my parents taught me that I could set my mind to whatever I wanted to accomplish and that with faith in God, I would get there. I am extremely proud of wholam becoming because I am still following the long road that leads to success and I know that I am capable of surpassing obstacles in the future.