THE GUIDE TO BEING MEXICAN-AMERICAN FOR DUMMIES by KRYSTAL NAVARRO

i. your american mother will unintentionally white-wash you. when orientation for kindergarten begins, her first instinct will be to put a little ‘x’ in the box marked ‘white’ for your ethnicity because her translucent skin burns in the sun, and she forgets that yours tans. when your father weaves stories of el chupcacabra and la llorona, his native language rolling off his tongue and pricking your ears with each word that you understand, you mother will scold him and tell him that you are in your cognitive years, and if you don’t learn english first, you will struggle in school.

ii. never trust a bank. your father will carry around his life savings in the pocket of his cowboy jeans and his finest jewelry will glint on his wrist and fingers beneath the incandescent lights of the grocery store. when your mother tells him that banks are to keep money safe, his formerly broken nose will scrunch as he exclaims that a bank is a ladrón. he will call your mother at eleven o’clock one day and say he has been stabbed for his money, and your mother will reply he better be bleeding or she will make him bleed. when you arrive at the scene, your father will wear the staples the doctors thrusted into his head like a crown because he protected his kingdom of gold watches and benjamin franklins. he still will not trust banks.

iii. get used to double takes. on fridays after school, you, your mother, and your father will go for ice cream at the dairy queen just down the street from the police station. you will be in your gym clothes, your mother will be in her sundress, and your father will have his black velvet cowboy hat, sunglasses, and his dark skin. the first two won’t draw the attention of the police officer at the stoplight, but the third will. you will feel the waves of suspicion radiate from the cop car as you lean your head against your mom’s car, feeling the vibrating hum of the car. the light will turn green, and when your massachusetts born, california raised mother steps on the gas and comes into view of the officer, he will relax. in that moment, your muscle memory will learn to tense when you’re driving down the i-91 and a cop pulls up beside you because your skin is hued from your father’s.

iv. your fifteenth birthday will be debated over for a month. your father will tell your mother that you are nearly a woman and deserve the night to celebrate it while your mother argues that you are still a child, and by encouraging being a woman at fifteen, you could end up with a baby before a diploma. meanwhile, you will tap away on your first smartphone, eagerly searching through a myriad of quinceañera dresses, praying that this is the first argument your father will rise as victorious. and when the day comes, you will spend it as you did your fourteenth, with pizza and hot wings perched on the messy dining room table.

v. when you speak, your spanish with sound americanized or your english will sound mexicanized. applying to enroll in a spanish class your first year of high school will be an inner struggle because you will understand every palabra the teacher uses, but you will never utter a word until the final speaking exam. shame will overcome you because you cannot speak as smoothly as your father, the words sliding off your lips like they were meant to be there. and when your tías and primos question why you don’t speak spanish to them, you will mutter an english apology, knowing that they don’t belong. you will go home and blame your american mother for your accent.

vi. trips to the store with your father will consist of him describing manzanas in spanish and babbling off about his friends, refusing to speak english to you. when you get home, your mother will tell your father that he lives in america and should speak english, but you will smile.

vii. watching the news will light an anger in you when you see families torn apart because of immigration laws. you will take to twitter and protest the injustice with the greatest weapons you have. you will refuse to stand for the pledge until your country is one you can be proud of. that night, you will find that you tell your father you love him three times within the span of an hour.

viii. you will acquire a taste for menudo that your mother doesn’t understand and a love for pizza that your father is repulsed by.

xi. your father will call you his hija in the same adoring tone that your mother calls you her daughter.

x. wedged between your father and your mother on the brown futon that always smells of cats, you will look between them, both engrossed in watching as steve harvey cracks jokes with the families on family feud. your father’s lips will pull into a smile as his spanish hardwired brain registers the joke thirty seconds after yours. your mother will shake her head at his untimely laughter, her own lips threatening a grin. you will look at your father’s skin, scarred and ripped from the life of a daredevil. you will look at you mother’s skin, roughened by the wrinkles she tries to hide. you will look down at the back of your palms, your skin a blend of american and mexican. and for once, you will learn that it is okay to be both.


Krystal Navarro is a junior at the orange county school of the arts in the creative writing conservatory. writing has been her long time passion, and she is just beginning to submit her work to magazines. she enjoys exploring topics such as being a mexican-american living in america and the significance of the influence culture has on films – along with the occasional tribute to the importance of star wars. in her free time, she can usually be found nestled up in a corner with a book, binge watching tv shows, or writing to celtic adventure music.

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