Identity, national or otherwise, is difficult to define. It is who we are, where we come from and what we choose to shape us. It is a combination of social constructs, individual experiences and discovery. It is, most of all, fluid.
In my case, I was born in Monterrey to a Mexican mother and an American father of Irish-German descent. At the age of 11, I moved to the United States after living in Mexico my first six years and Venezuela the following five.
In very real terms, I am Mexican and American. I hold passports in both countries, have family in both and have felt pride and sometimes disappointment in both. Being “Mexican-American” is an interesting and valuable experience, with one foot in each country, it is easier to be empathetic and often practical about controversial issues, such as Mexican illegal immigration in the U.S. On the opposite end, being Mexican-American can prove challenging, particularly when, depending on the situation, I am “too latin or not latin enough”. In some ways, I have never felt more American than in Mexico.
Mexico, a country I have spent many summers as a child and youth going to, has frustrated me at times. Perhaps I view it through the unforgiving prism of the States, but I am often butting my head about the lack of governmental transparency, the dearth of social services and the bureaucratic roadblocks of opening a business. Mexico is a country of tremendous potential, too often thwarted by a legacy of corruption and the malaise of its population.
I have, however, always felt a strong pull toward Mexico. Tellingly, my studies led me to a Latin American Studies degree. Almost three years ago I moved back to Mexico. Mexico is in my skin. Her vibrancy, color, food, architecture and music are entrancing. Jolting. To me, mariachi music is not only quintessentially Mexican but one of only music styles I can think of that is cross-generational, eliciting equal passion and pride from an 8-year-old and an 80-year-old. It is emblematic of the best of Mexico. Bold, proud, reflective and beautiful.
Leticia, my Mexican mother, is all of those things and more. Open, gregarious and charming, she is etched in everyone’s psyche that has had the pleasure of knowing her. She is Mexico - warm, funny and irreverent. It doesn’t hurt that she also happens to cook an exceptional tortilla soup and have a shot or two of reposado. She is the promise of Mexico and that, along with the cultural and natural splendor, is what I want my daughter, Sofia, to take away from her experience in Mexico.
Written by Michelle Meyer for “Caras de México”. Click here to read more articles examining Mexican identity.