Where you from?

This question has been asked of me for a very long time. The tone has varied and my answer depends on that tone. When I moved to Los Angeles to go to college everyone was from somewhere. Even if they were from LA, they were from different parts of the county or Southern California. Every neighborhood has its identity so the question was asked out of curiosity to see where your perspective on life comes from. It was a good conversation starter although  I did get the silly question “Do you ride horses there?” as in instead of a car. I also got questioned on my use of “y’all” until Nelly made it cool. On our visits to Mexico with the family, it wasn’t “where are you from” but rather they knew where you were from. “Ohh, la Tejana.” It bothered me slightly having spent my first two years of life there including holidays and summers for 18 years. My Spanish accent matched theirs. It was my parent’s and grandparent’s home. I felt at home.

When I moved back to San Antonio over 4 years ago, where you are from became a big deal. I was recruited to return by former LA colleagues but when I was introduced in a business setting it was always with the caveat that I was from here. I had the experience of working in LA but I was a local girl. Sometimes, I was introduced by where I was born just to emphasize as much as possible that I was from here. This was usually followed by “what city do you like better?” and you better say San Antonio. My response was always that I love both cities and that’s the truth. In social settings, I had one girl a bit obsessed by my stint in LA. “Oh, I heard you said you were from LA, well everyone is moving here because there is NO water in LA.” blah blah blah. I was just trying to grab a drink with new friends but this one was about to get some LA attitude with her rantings about how “everyone” was leaving California to come HERE, on this very spot, on the dirt she stood on. I mean evvveeerrrryyyyone! Constantly discounting that I was from here and there IS water in LA or else everyone would have died already. This chick . . . I swear.

On another occasion, I was asked by a prominent board member if I caught the Spurs game the night before. I casually said no which was followed by a huge dramatic gasp, “Yadeeeeerrra, what do you mean you don’t watch the Spurs????” Under my breath I muttered that I had better things to do with 4 hours of my life that evening. Identity is a huge deal here that finally I decided to respond that I am a proud southsider and raise chickens in my backyard and my alarm clock is my rooster named Pedro. That usually tops any argument about my loyalty to this city. Don’t call yourself a southsider if you don’t live south of I90. South Town does not count. I wonder if being from anywhere else is a threat to people here or is it that as Texans in general, civic pride is instilled in us at a very young age. I believe having the Spurs franchise reinforces this. I don’t hate the team or the sport. I grew up watching and attended one game (because we were poor and my dad was more into baseball). But I don’t feel I have to pledge allegiance to the players or purchase every team logo knockoff t-shirt and fiesta medal. This lady could have offered me one of her floor season tickets and I would have gladly accepted.

One day, my daughter came home with a note from school that the next day was College t-shirt day. I searched through my closet and couldn’t find any from my old school. They don’t sell them here so I had to run to the pulga to get one printed on the fly. Guess how many kids had on college t-shirts that day? I just saw one, my kid. But every other day there are tons of kids with Spurs gear from head to toe. The whole 6 flags over Texas history is also a point of pride that is taught in school and the Texas pledge is recited right after the Pledge of Allegiance.

At this point this issue with identity is frustrating. It’s a constant subject in so many aspects of life. It’s an unnecessary competition. I’ve always said I am a citizen of the world. I still believe in that philosophy. That doesn’t mean you give up your identity or that you don’t have a culture. I am who I am because the places I have lived have contributed to who I am today. I have 3 places I call home. So what?

Most recently, (this week) my daughter mentioned that she didn’t know Spanish (she does, it’s not perfect) and this random lady copped a nasty attitude on her saying “Oh no girlfriend, this is San Antonio, you live here now and you need to learn.” followed by fake laughter. The hair on the back of my neck rose and I started some labored breathing. The physical reaction told me I had to fire back. I hate confrontation especially when I am not expecting it. So I tap this chick on the shoulder and told her I was offended by what she said. She didn’t know my kid at all. How did she assume she wasn’t from here? Who made her the authority to tell my kid she had to learn Spanish? I saw my kid react to that attitude thrown at her and I could tell it hurt even though she laughed it off. How dare she? A grown woman attack a kid like that? She didn’t even apologize. Just told me how she was a mom too. I don’t need anyone making my kid feel like she does not belong here. I can handle this issue being thrown at me but don’t do it to my kid. She too is a citizen of the world. She carries it all in her DNA, in her curly hair, in her golden brown skin and her Latina attitude and confidence.

I will never apologize for leaving San Antonio for Los Angeles. The hundred reasons I had for leaving are all mine. There’s a saying that goes “ni de aqui, ni de alla” to describe the Mexican-American experience, however, I beg to differ. I am from here. I am from there. I belong. Where I am, that is home. This isn’t a commune and I don’t need a membership to return or anyone’s approval to be here or leave. I am here now, I eat mangonadas and pass on the flour tortillas, but occasionally I’ll have barbacoa, and because it matters so much, I am San Anto. Deal with it.

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