By Mari D González
Last summer, I presented at an international conference and one of the participants asked me at the end, “How do you feel about presenting when most of your fellow Mexicans are labor workers?”
I wishfully thought he had come across post-colonial studies given that he was a university professor abroad. I had overheard him talking about teaching a graduate course in Thailand. My assumptions resulted from a positive stereotype that is just as insidious.
I did not care to answer his question because it was not one I would have ever asked myself. Instead, I wondered if he, in the effort of protecting his ego, avoided asking: “How do I feel by listening to a Mexican given the unquestioned perception I have chosen to hold about her?”
My “Mexicaness” experience has been shaped by a series of life events. I did not grow up in the U.S. and thus was devoid of its color-classification through enculturation. Growing up in Mexico, I mingled and felt equally comfortable with my well-off relatives from Mexico City as with my father’s students at his materially-poor-but-dignifying-rich rural school where I attended first and second grades before entering the only private school in my hometown. I certainly could not have any sympathy for this professor’s views or feelings.
Yet, through his inquiry, he had informed me of his narrow individually-held perception and how he declined to challenge it by diffusing it toward me. He refused to expand his stereotype when he had the opportunity to. Unfortunately, he chose to see the little and tiny side of the broader whole despite of his long-traveled and -lived life.