I never really understood what being a Latina meant until I came to college. I had set my mind on doing everything I could to succeed in journalism. After taking one elective course in Mexican American Studies however, I was hooked. I wanted to learn about my family's history and ultimately about mine also. I soon added it as a second degree. That doesn't mean being a Latina has been easy though.
The most recent challenge I have faced began when I added Mexican American Studies as a second degree. My family automatically began to criticize my decision. They thought that it was pointless to study "something that was already mine" (Mexican American culture). My friends who identify as Latin@s were excited for me. My friends who are not Latin@s however, began to make jokes about my decision saying things like "You're already Mexican. Are you going to study yourself?"
Additionally, just my last name - Vasquez - has cause a lot of challenges growing up. My first job was at a call center, and since I was extremely new to this type of job, I always said my full name on the phone - Ingrid Vasquez - even though it was OK just to say my first name. I will never forget however, when I was hanged up on just because of my name. The short conversation went like this:
"Hi! Is this Mr. _____"
"My name is Ingrid Vasquez and I'm calling from the University of Texas at Austin! How are you today?"
*I repeat what I had just said*
"What did you say your name was?"
"Sir, are you having trouble hearing me? My name is Ingrid Vasquez and I'm calling from the Unitersity of Texas at Austin."
He laughs again.
"No. I need to talk to somebody who actually knows English. I can't believe they have people like you on the phone."
I repeat my intro again.
"Noooo. You don't know English. Call me when someone educated and who actually knows English is on the phone."
He hangs up.
And since that point on, even if not needed, I tell everyone my full name. I was more mad at myself for being ashamed of my identity after that phone call than the man himself.
Don't ever be ashamed to be a Latina. You were given a beautiful gift.