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Brown on the inside, white on the out

  • 02 May 2018



They say

I remember holding your hand, brown against white.

Holding it so tight, so the waves of dirty looks and hushed giggles didn't wash my tiny body away.

They asked what a 'wet back' was doing with a little white girl.

They asked what it was like to have a dad that talked so funny.

They asked what it was like, to be brown on the inside and white on the out.

They asked things I didn't know the answers to. What was it like?


I thought it was the same as everyone else.

Until one day I realised that the other kids didn't have 'abuelas', they had Grandmas.

They didn't have a 'Tio', they had uncles.

They didn't dance every night to Spanish music with their brothers,

Or pray to 'Esupristo' in the morning before Escuela.

They didn't wear big hoops in middle school that their family passed down.

They didn't dress colorful in the winter air.

They didn't feel so deeply, sometimes, it seemed.

So. What was it like? To be a 'burrito'?


It was eating salsa at my cousin's wedding. It was having so many family members that I couldn't even keep up with their names but we hugged like our blood line depended on it when we saw each other.

It was waking up to tamales on Christmas morning. It was talking shit with your Mexican friends at school. It was getting drunk at a Quinceanera when you were 15.

It was watching Novellas until you fell asleep every night.


But it was also being lonely.

It was being called white by Mexicans, but not being able to go to your white friend's houses because their parents were scared of your dad.

It was getting mocked when your Spanish wasn't good enough. But shaping a new accent so the English speakers wouldn't make fun of the one you picked up from your dad as a kid.


It was ordering food in Spanish and being asked how you learned the language.

It was not knowing what box to check in the race section of standardised tests.

It was being told you were 'too mean' for a white girl.

It was either bleaching your hair or dying it darker so you could at least TRY to look like only one race.

It was explaining to everyone the complexity of your heritage and watching them roll their eyes. 'It's complicated.'


It was fighting off white men who call you 'exotic' and warding off brown ones who saw you as a white skin-ticket.


It was carefully treading