My grandma was German and Mexican, raised in Tampico, Mexico, and she migrated to the US in the late 60’s. My father is German and Mexican, and my mother is Filipino. My grandparents on my mother’s side originated from Mindanao, Philippines.
I am very grateful for being exposed to my culture at such an early age. One of the first conversations I can remember with my parents was about how my family comes from both Mexico and the Philippines and how they are similar historically (since both countries were at once colonized by Spain), and how Tagalog (the main language of the Philippines) has a lot of Spanish influence.
I enjoyed growing up in the Bay Area, because I was able to experience different ethnic foods and go to a lot of cultural events. At home my mom and dad cooked both traditional Filipino and Mexican dishes. My dad would play traditional Spanish love songs and show me how beautiful Spanish sounds.At school I had ethnically diverse friends, and despite growing up in neighborhoods that were ethnically diverse, I did not always feel included in mainstream American culture.
There were times when I felt like my parents did not understand certain American customs like the concept of spending the night at friends’ houses. At the same time some of my friends did not understand why my family did certain things that were not typically “American.”
Sometimes I would get mistaken for being Chinese by Mexicans, and then get mistaken for being Mexican by Asians and Filipinos. However, over time it started to become funny to me because I realized that it just all depended on the social context that I was in at the time and to basically to not let anyone else define me.
Still, one of my biggest pet peeves is to hear someone say, “Oh wow, but you don’t look Mexican and Filipino.” It used to make me more upset but I think people just say it out of shock or just to process it for themselves. Ethnic identity is definitely a fluid process and sometimes it takes a whole lifetime to fully achieve that identity, but it is a very personal choice on how you choose to define yourself ethnically. So if someone says something in reference to your ethnicity that might feel offensive to you, instead of getting mad, try to educate them. Most of the time it is just out of ignorance until you get to share your story with them.
These days, I feel very connected to both ethnicities. I love talking about ethnicity so much that I study ethnic identity development among adolescents in graduate school. I speak Spanish much more fluently than I speak Tagalog (I only know some words) but one day I would like to be fluent in both languages. I currently live in Arizona and am married to a third-generation Mexican-American, so at this point in my life I would say that my Mexican heritage is much more salient to me right now. When I start having children, I will teach them about both their Mexican and Filipino heritages and about where their family came from. I think staying connected to your heritage and culture (whatever it may be) is very important, because you don’t know where you’re going unless you know where you’ve been. Stay strong Hapas you are all beautiful!