photo: Danielle Alvarez

Up until college, I grew up going to small, white private schools all my life, where I was one of few, and sometimes the only, Latina in school. Not by any fault of their own, many of my sheltered peers assumed "Spanish people" were tan with dark features and all "Mexican." So you can imagine their confusion when I, a fair-skinned girl, with golden brown hair and light green eyes, would show-off my Spanish speaking skills at school and brag about my Latin culture any chance I got. 

“Wait — you’re Spanish [Latina]?” I’ve gotten that three letter question more times in my life than I can count. 

As a bouncing pink-skinned, baby with wispy blonde hair and bright blue eyes, many times people would question that my mother, was really my mother. Yes, more often than not, my dark-hair, tan-skinned mother would be mistaken for my nanny — talk about a stereotype. 

But it wasn’t just my adolescent white friends at the playground or assuming strangers that categorized me as a “white girl” — it was my own community as well.

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photo: Danielle Alvarez

My abuela has lived with my family since I was 2-years-old, she helped raise my brother and I, so as a result, we’re extremely close. She doesn’t speak English and is very in touch with our culture, so she prefers going to the Latin supermarket in the next town over. 

When I walk down the aisles, stacked high with GOYA cans and platanos, I can’t help but notice the questioning faces of the other Latino customers. To many of them I look out of place, I can see the surprise on the butcher’s face when I order, "dos libras de carne molida por favor,” con acento. Probably the worst experience I’ve had, was this one time I ordered a sandwich, and the men behind the counter — assuming I couldn’t understand them — spoke about me in Spanish and commented on my appearance, right in front of me. I let them know I knew exactly what they were saying and they probably shouldn’t be talking about customers right in front of them.

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At this point in my life, I’m pretty used to people just assuming I’m white. Even my dark-featured, younger brother still thinks it’s funny to pretend I’m adopted. In my defense, my dad is pretty fair-featured, but I still stick out most in the family photos.

photo: Danielle Alvarez

I’ll admit it’s actually kind of funny when I meet other Latinos at parties and they can’t believe that I’m fully Latina. But, to a lot of my friends, especially the Latino ones, I’m “still a white girl,” to them. I don’t take offense to it, mainly because I know they're joking — and they’re not completely off. But a part of me feels like I’m always trying to prove how “Latina” I am or that I belong. I know I shouldn’t feel this way, and that it shouldn’t matter, but I can’t help but wonder if I’ll always just be that Latina white girl.