Una Forastera, An Outsider

By Reina E., age 17

There are times when I’m not very conscious of things, that I don’t fully acknowledge my culture. Because I’m only thinking in a human sense. For I am a human.

But I realize that we are each beautifully different types of human, and the culture I belong to is enchantingly rich and vibrant.

I remember when I was about five or so, my grandma came to visit us. All I remember was the molding of beige lumps into flat tortillas and their dusty flour softening my fingers. I’m filled with joy and hope when the Dia de los Muetos comes about. I love the thought that we still care and honor our loved ones even if they aren’t presently here. The decorative altars and charming skeleton figures make it all the more wonderful. The Abuelita’s hot chocolate and its subtle sweetness make winter all the merrier.

Sometimes I also think about my countless visits to Olvera Street – though not entirely authentic in its creation, it was genuine in its spirit of the Mexican heritage. A rainbow of bright pastel knickknacks and sweet snacks swim through your vision, and in the Plaza, you may find graceful Aztec dancers, feathers reaching for the sun. It’s here that I feel like a natural puzzle piece in the grand puzzle of my culture.

There are times, though, when I feel like una forastera, an outsider. I say that ironically because I’m not a native Spanish speaker, and sometimes it gnaws at me that I can’t fluently speak my culture’s tongue, like I’m not fully Mexican. But I’ve come to slowly accept that it doesn’t matter that I can’t speak the language. I feel that it matters more about things such as history and music and art. And it’s these things about my culture, and the beautiful colors and sights and people and food that are infused with the words in my writing and my adoration and love of my culture.

I smile with my heritage when we triumph, and I cry when we’re slapped with injustice. And that simultaneous beating heart and emotions is what makes me proud to be a mexicana every day that I’m alive and every time I put my words to paper.