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What It Was Like to Grow Up Asian Latinx

Here's What I Have to Say to People Who Tell Me I'm Not "Latina Enough"

Monica Sisavat is an assistant editor at POPSUGAR.

I am 50 percent Mexican and 50 percent Laotian. My mom immigrated to the US from Mexico, while my dad came from Laos. Even though my parents come from two completely different backgrounds and I was born in the US, my parents raised me to be equally proud of both of my cultures.

Growing up, I had the best of both worlds. My abuela would cook the most amazing chicken tamales for Christmas, while my aunt would make the tastiest pho whenever I visited her. My mom taught me how to speak Spanish at a young age, and even though I can't fully speak Lao, I understand a few of the basics thanks to my dad. I went to church with my Mexican side of the family, but I also visited the temple with my Laotian side. This is how my parents brought me up, and I'm proud of it.

"Other people don't get to define me, I define myself."

As I got older, other Latinos around me started pointing out that I wasn't the same as them. My eyes were a little slanted, my skin color was a tad lighter, I spoke English at home, my last name isn't Mexican, my family's traditions weren't the same as theirs, and so on. Some of the most common remarks I would get from people were, "You're not really Latina" or "You don't look Mexican enough." To this day, I still remember a guy not wanting to date me because I wasn't "full Mexican." In his eyes that meant I wasn't "domesticated" and my career aspirations were seen as a flaw. Not only was that complete and total bullsh*t, but he clearly didn't realize what year we were living in.

Still, because my Spanish isn't perfect and I don't fit the "Latina mold," I was (and still am) criticized for not being Latina enough. I was never "Mexican enough" to hang out with the other Mexican kids in school, and when I hung out with other people who weren't Latino, I was called "white washed." (This is probably the reason I only have two Latino friends.) I could never win because only one of my parents is Mexican.

Despite their close-minded remarks, I remain proud of my roots and I've realized that other people don't get to define me, I define myself. Both of my parents came to the US with dreams of building better futures for themselves and providing me with a life they never had. To me, being Latina is more than just about genetics. While I do have Latin blood running through my veins, being Latina is a representation of my culture, my roots, and my family's values and history. And besides, hardly anybody is 100 percent Latina nowadays, so who's to say that I am not?

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Victor Verdugo
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