SBS 301 Cultural Diversity/Prof. Koptiuch         Fall 2003        Personal Memory Ethnographies

Jessica Calix

An Insight into Me

 When I was nine years old, my family and I moved from the diverse community of Brooklyn, New York to Glendale, Arizona. We moved into a neighborhood that was predominately white. We were the only family of color living on the block, an immense contrast from the neighborhood I inhabited in New York, where different races always surrounded me.

 It felt odd not seeing people of color, I felt alienated. Our neighbors were not malicious towards my family, but I am certain that they assumed we were Mexican, when in fact we are Honduran. This presumption has always disturbed me. I have had friends who conjecture that all Hispanics are of Mexican origin. When I try to correct their errors, they respond with ludicrous comments such as “They’re all the same thing.” These comments irritate me, not because I have anything against Mexicans, many of my close friends are Mexican, but because I am proud of being Honduran and yearn for that recognition.

 The incident that most affected me that first year occurred on that first day of school. I was already feeling anxious and petrified, and predominately-white students surrounded me once more. I was walking to my class and a boy around nine years old stopped to tell me a spiteful comment about being Mexican. I cannot remember what he said all I know is that it hurt, and I thought to myself, “Why is this boy acting so mean?”

  I could see the terrified, yet inquisitive look on her face as to why this boy would say such things to her.  My name is Ashley and this was the first time I had witnessed someone get insulted for their skin color. I saw a hurt and puzzled girl.  I made it my responsibility to approach her, not having a care in the world for what others thought of me.

 As I began walking to my class, I could only hear the sound of the children’s voices.  I was an outsider who desperately wanted to be a part of those voices. I was alone, I knew nobody, I was nervous.  All I wanted to do was to blend in.

 This experience caused me to deny my culture because all I wanted to do was to make friends and to fit in with my Anglo classmates. I was terrified that my parents would speak Spanish to me in front of my friends, because they would consider it outlandish.

 As I grew older, I realized that I was foolish for denying my heritage, and I became proud of who I am and who my family is.  When I think back to that first day of school, I can now answer the question of why that boy was so mean. It was because of his ignorance. He was not used to seeing people that were different from him, which may have triggered him to treat anyone who is not like him negatively.

  When thinking back about this incident eleven years ago, I believe it has stuck with me because it was the only time in my life when I have been offended because of my ethnicity.  It intrigued me to see that in my hometown of New York, race was not a factor that would cause derogatory remarks, at least not in my experience.

   New York City is more diverse than my Glendale, Arizona community. Many people who live in New York are accustomed to coexisting with people of different ethnicities, this in part may account for why people of color in New York do not seem to take the verbal abuse as they do in other states.  When I attended the school in New York, I would see people of all races walk around my old school, without encountering remarks due to their race.

 I am a Latina woman who is molded by the language my family speaks and heritage I grew up in.  I wonder why I have not been a target for more verbal attacks, when I see people of my race always being criticized and put down for being Hispanic.  I see this happening in the mass media and in the everyday world around me.  Many perceive Hispanics as lower class people who are not-worthy of holding a high place in society.  In the eyes of most people, Hispanics are at the bottom of the hierarchical pyramid, only capable of working in janitorial positions.

  I was glad I made the decision to approach Jessica. We became good friends, I met her family, and they were really nice and sweet.  I got an insight into Jessica’s Honduran culture through the food and language, whenever I visited her at her house.

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