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Los Angeles, CA, United States


Wednesday, August 31, 2011

So What

So what is it like growing up being Chinese and Mexican?  This topic came up recently in conversation and my pat answer is "It's taking the best of both cultures and melding them together." WTF does that mean.  Hell if I know but it sure sounds good and gets people off my back with that question.

Think about the question.  Does it really make sense after all?  How would I know how it is to grow up Chinese and Mexican as opposed to WHAT?  I only have one perspective-MINE so honestly, I can't really give an answer.  Yes, it's possible to have a tortilla with butter as a snack then munching on some chow mein a minute later.  Is that what it's like growing up in a mixed ethnic and cultural home?  I don't know. 

I will tell you this that from a food perspective growing up, I think I've been blessed to have experienced both cultures.  I was exposed to frog legs, peking duck, crab, squab at an early age in addition to mole poblano, pippian, adobo, chicharonnes, and chile verde.  Breakfast  wasn't just cereal or ham & eggs but chorizo, juk (rice congee), huevos rancheros or machaca. There was oolong tea or champurrado or abuelitas hot chocolate.

Growing up bi-racial has its challenges.  There are the acceptance issues at school.  I still remember walking the halls of Hammel St. school and some kid yelling at me from the bottom of the stairwell, "Chinese, Japanese, Dirty Knees, Look at these!" as he points to his knees.  Another one of those WTF moments in my life.  What does he mean?  But I wasn't so naive to not understand that it was a racial slur.  I remember being "half-breed"  by classmates. Maybe that was homage to Cher's song of the same name.  I remember feeling the odd man out only because I was not really one race or the other.  But I also remember whenever I felt that way, I remembered that God put me here half breed and all for a reason so those ill feelings of not belonging dissipated quickly.

I really didn't know any Asians growing up as a kid except my family and my cousins on my dad's side.  Growing up in East Los Angeles, all my friends were Mexican-American.  Diversity was rare in the neighborhood.  My taste of other cultures was riding the RTD with mom to head to downtown for the month-end sales at May Co., Robinson's, Bullock's and Broadway.  High school was my first taste of diversity.  Learning and competition gave us all a common goal and made me realize, the differences are so slight between one guy to another.  It's amazing to be surrounded by other young men with similar values.  Yes, their cultural backgrounds are significantly different but the core and foundation are carved from the same rock.

I think it's that same very core that connects people despite their outward appearance and cultural backgrounds.  It's the fundamental values that gives friends that uncanny trait of empathy and sympathy.  I don't really know how to describe growing up bi-racial.  There are advantages no doubt of being able to relate to both cultures due to my exposure.  But I also believe that my formative years are similar to many of my friends.  Maybe that's why after so many years (some over 41 years), we can still call each other friends.

1 comment:

  1. I don't ever recall a moment since first grade where I thought you were different! Maybe because I was familiar with other Asians. Even if you look more "Chinese" you are more "Mexican" than I will ever be!! This Mexican/American took Spanish and the highest grade I ever received was a C-. I'm sure the Spanish teacher just wanted to get rid of me... At least I know when we're together, you can translate for me!! nlv