What it's like to be a Mexican-American in Texas

Mexican, American, Mexican-American or American-Mexican -- we all connect in some way.

In elementary school, we'd often study the Battle of Alamo with its famous quote "Remember the Alamo." The phrase is attributed to American generals like Sam Houston, who fought in the 13 day battle won by Mexican troops.

Texas wanted to become independent, with Anglo-Americans and Indigenous Mexicans backing up the effort.

Mexico handed land by the acre with the condition that settlers grew crops and converted to Catholicism and Mexican citizenship. Most response was from Anglo-American people from other parts of the country. That same group eventually fought to make Texas independent.

The American settlers were called Texians, while the local Indigenous Mexicans were called Tejanos.

This is one of the many reasons why Mexican immigrants say "the border crossed them."

As a Mexican-American, I wish that in school, they had told us the story of Texas history as far back as the days in which Indigenous communities settled in the land, explaining the roots of Mexicans today. But like a lot of Native-American history, a lot of it is lost or simply disregarded.

And why does it matter?

American citizens or not, people with Mexican blood, don't know enough about their history. And as someone who was born in the border, I can say, many of them even ignore the reality of their roots. Perhaps it was years of segregation, or maybe it all started when Texas became a part of the US and gave more benefits to the Texians than the Tejanos. It seemed best to blend with the Texians. Over a century later, the result is a community who physically and obviously is in denial of their roots. People who could speak Spanish, embrace a different culture with endless benefits, instead is not just closed to the idea but belittles those who accept and rejoice their Mexican heritage.

The actual border

Since Trump's electoral campaign of 2015, the border became a trending topic. Suddenly, everyone wanted to know about the border or posed a strong opinion on whether there should or shouldn't be a wall. But few actually knew the state of the border. As a border resident, I saw the wall come up during George Bush's early presidency years. I was about 15 years old. At the time, it was clear to me why the wall was put up (keep people out), but it was unclear how it would help. It reminded me of Mexican backyards putting up large fences to keep their properties safe. It felt as an indicator that things were wrong, not in Mexico but in the US.

In my mind, only people in fear of danger and with fewer options put up walls.

But wasn't the US one of the most successful countries in the world? My notions of the US, a country which I thought was open to progress and had limitless options, began to change.

So who am I and what do I represent?

And in what way do I embrace my culture?

In college, I would see people around me wear their Texas shirts, hats and bumper stickers with pride. I went one of the biggest universities in the country, The University of Texas at Austin. And for some reason, I simply couldn't fully give in. I'd wear a Longhorn shirt here and there, but I wasn't every fully content with the idea of being a proud Texan. How could I support a story and a philosophy like Remember the Alamo that didn't represent a large part of my Mexican heritage?

And why wasn't there something out there that acknowledged that I was in fact a Tejana rather than a Texian?

With little options, Tejanos have embraced the Texan culture. Cowboy culture, northern country music, barbecues -- all things that stemmed from Mexican cultural influence but no longer provided any attribution or showed the history of its root. Deep down inside, there's a reason why Tejanos love this. The culture is a part of them after all, but the story of where it originated from is rarely shared.

Like when you change the channels and can't find anything you like, but you decide to stick to the best thing available. Mexican-Americans should be able to choose amongst a variety of cultural practices that more accurately represent them. Meanwhile, Mexican-Americans are becoming further divided, picking sides. As though there is any side to pick, when in reality we all come from the same ancestors and we've just taken different geographical paths with time.

I've heard people in Mexico say "Why do people decide to cross the border without documents?"

The answer is simple: Mexico is at an economic disadvantage in contrast to the US. Mexican people with money can enjoy the country's beauty, and safety and justice is more guaranteed for them. But for those without enough resources, safety and justice is not always a given right.

Mexican-Americans in the US, and the border particularly also have strong opinions about Mexicans crossing the border without documents. It seems most of this behavior comes from a blunt denial of history.

This is a long founded racial issue, that began with Anglo Americans segregating Mexicans, and became a matter of Mexican-Americans segregating all varieties of Mexican heritage people.

What can we do to change this?

Sharing meaningful and real Texas history with young children, and providing them with role models who are like them helps. It allows them to grow proud and content of who they are. Denial is a choice, but it's never true. It never leads to someone accomplishing something meaningful. It debilitates a person's aura and strength. It's something we're born with and deserve to cherish and grow. We have to become informed and participate together to value what we're made of, no matter the degree of Mexican or American that is within us.

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