I wish we talked about this more: The Forgotten History of Chinese Immigrants in this Mexican border town

When I’m abroad, I’m sometimes struck by the lack of diversity of places. The lack of miscegenation; the lack of heterogeneity. We take for granted the variety of shades and voices that live dispersed in the U.S.

I’m a mixed bag of people. My ancestors share and deviate from cultural bases. In Ireland, I was struck by the very few number of non-white seeming people I saw. I remember running into a person of Asian heritage in Sligo and feeling like, oh, yes. A moment of dissonance as I remembered.

Then, in Seoul, I was struck by how different I felt. My rounded features in comparison to the flat faces of the city. I felt stark, naked, obvious. I felt Other. People were nice about my facial order, but it felt weird to be noticed for something I’m not responsible for. A different kind of admiration than the cat-calling.

In Peru, I often had to voice my Hispanic-ness, my Latin-ness. I was not brown enough, dark enough. In Costa Rica, my name motivated strangers to speak quick Spanish to me that left me dumbfounded. I was just the right color for their liking.

We don’t talk enough about how people move between the borders. We don’t talk enough about the diversity that exists so potently in some places. When homogeneity meets homogeneity. We don’t talk about how it affects our brains to be standing next to someone or chatting with someone whose face and skin and hair are coded differently from yours.

You should have seen my students’ faces when I told them of my heritage. Their eyes get wide and you can see the whirring of their brains through the widened lens. I am a wolf in sheep’s clothing. I slink among you. You are oblivious. This is important to discuss.


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