I was born and raised in a small town called Rio Grande City and went to school in La Grulla, both of which sit just on the border of Mexico with nothing but the river in between. As a young child, day trips over the bridge for cheaper products and better food were no big deal. My whole life, an entirely different country was almost always within sight.
The cultures and traditions of Mexico blended seamlessly with those of the United States as I grew up. I spoke Spanglish, listened to country music, ate menudo and barbacoa on Sundays and went to football games on Friday nights. I come from tortillas y frijoles and ham and cheese, raspas and ice cream, corridos and pop songs, buñuelos and doughnuts, Dieciséis de Septiembre and Fourth of July.
Up until I graduated high school and left home to go to college in San Antonio, I never fully realized or understood just how much influence living in such a culturally mixed area had on my personality, views and values. I knew I’d be in for a culture shock moving from a small town to the second-largest city in Texas, but I could never have imagined the prejudice and arrogance I’d encounter as a Mexican American.
Naturally, practically every single person back home had the same cultural background, so racism and bigotry were a rare occurrence. In San Antonio, however, I encountered my fair share of it. I was blatantly followed around department stores and had my purse searched on the way out.
I watched my boyfriend (also Mexican American and from the same hometown) be skipped over in line at SuperCuts because the beautician didn’t want to serve him (or the African Americans in attendance)—although she had no problem assisting all the Caucasian people in line behind us. I got dirty looks whenever I spoke Spanish in public, as if anything in another language is automatically “less than.”
At first, encounters like these were incredibly disheartening. But after my first year here, I realized I wouldn’t change my heritage or who I was even if I had the chance. Learning to speak two languages at an early age created job opportunities and broke down barriers between me and all the Spanish-speaking people I’ve met since moving.
Growing up the way I did, seeing firsthand the struggles and desperation of people born on the other side of the border, made me grateful for everything I have—something so many of my fellow college peers lack. Being raised with both Mexican and American cultures made me well rounded, instilled me with diverse values, provided me with very open-minded views on this melting pot of a country and most importantly, taught me to be accepting of everyone, no matter their ethnicity.
Unfortunately, the infamous Mr. Donald J. Trump wants to make childhood experiences like mine totally extinct. As someone who grew up in a border town, I can personally say a towering wall would be detrimental to the beautiful mixing of two great cultures. The fluidity of business, art, music and literature between the two nations would cease to exist the way it currently does. Authentic foods we’ve come to love wouldn’t be able to make their way over. An entire way of life—border town life—would be essentially erased.
I understand the point of the wall is too keep illegal immigrants from coming into America, but what Trump needs to understand is that it’s just not that simple. Nothing, not even a 100-foot wall, will ever be enough to keep hardworking, determined Mexicans from coming in search of a better life for themselves and their family. Illegal or not, immigrants built this country and continue to support it. Yes, there’s drug trafficking and people coming over with malicious intentions, but that’s all people like Trump want you to believe.
What about the innocent families trying to get away from such things in the first place? Trump doesn’t talk about the frightened, abused, impoverished folk who risk their lives for a sliver of hope and the chance to no longer live in constant fear.
My grandmother on my mom’s side was born on a ranch in Miguel Aleman, Tamaulipas, in Mexico. When she was just nine-years old, her parents brought her, her six sisters and two brothers to the United States for a better life and more opportunities. My grandmother and her siblings grew up here, led successful lives and raised families. Had they not been able to come over, I wouldn’t be here today. The United States would be lacking eight other families of successful citizens who contribute to society as doctors, lawyers and teachers (not “killers and rapists”.)
If we elect Donald Trump, an out-and-out racist as our next President, it’ll serve as the poorest example of American judgment in history. In a world where Donald Trump is President of the United States, this country will never be great again. How could a nation that restricts the flow of its cultural diversity be anything but senseless?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for patriotism. But isn’t one of the biggest parts of being a proud American, being proud of our cultural melting pot and acceptance? What about freedom and justice for all? I always thought that extended to anyone and everyone in our wonderful country, not just to those who were lucky enough to be born here. How can America be the “home of the brave” if those who live here are too afraid to let anyone else in?
The thought of such luxuries being restricted back when my grandmother was a child the way Trump wants them restricted now terrifies me. My life would not exist the way it does. The lives of so many other families and children will not exist either if Trump has his way. An unimaginable number of potential physicians, politicians and artists would miss out on great opportunities and America would be missing out on them as well.
I’m proud of my Mexican heritage and that doesn’t make me any less American. Soy orgullosa de mi herencia Mexicana y no me hace menos Americana.