Plaza Voices: From Here and There

There’s no doubt that Latinx identity is one confusing topic. The U.S. Census classifies Hispanic as an ethnicity, typically based in one’s culture rather than one’s biology. In 2010, 63% of Latinx census responders chose one of the five federal racial categories alongside their ethnicity. This means there are white Latinx, like myself, along with black, Asian, American Indian and Pacific Islander. The remaining 37% went with the “Other” box, my father included. When asked, 56% of responders from the Pew Research Center said they see being Hispanic as both ethnic -and- racial. You can see where things get...well, complicated.

The first time I had to fill out a form asking how I identify ethnically, I was six years old, in first grade. I remember staring at the categories feeling very confused about what to select. Having grown up hearing more Spanish than English when visiting my grandparents, going to Puerto Rican festivals and eating plátanos y arroz at family gatherings, somehow “White (Not Hispanic)” just didn’t feel right. But what about my mother’s family, who were mostly of Scotch-Irish and Eastern European descent, and for all intents and purposes “white”? I hesitantly selected “Other.” When I told my dad about what happened that day at school, his response was, “The next time anybody asks you, Desi, just tell them you are human.”

By now I’ve heard everything from “But you don’t -look- Latina...except for [inappropriate comment here]” to “Oh, is your husband Hispanic?” A recent post from a friend on social media asked “How many generations do you need to go back in your family to find someone whose first language was not English?” For myself, it is only one.

Claiming two different backgrounds is a lonely and confusing experience at times, although it’s also a source of strength and connection for a growing group of individuals. Indeed, “multiracial” is the fastest growing demographic in the country, according to the the 2010 U.S. Census. A recent episode of NPR’s Code Switch podcast explored an outpouring of responses -- 127 total -- to a call for stories of feeling like a “fake” when talking about their race or ethnicity. The writers have informally called this experience “racial imposter syndrome.”

Not until recently have multiracial individuals even been able to claim their identity on the Census, and this shift has certainly changed how we think and talk about it. We’re still figuring a lot of things out, and there isn’t really one right answer. Where do we belong? What makes us us?

The multiracial experience is also one that has been appearing more and more in our media. Author Heidi Durrow has even organized the first festival, Mixed Remixed, exploring these questions and how they fit into our global narrative.

Telling and owning our stories is so important, not only for ourselves, but for those having the same experience and feeling alone. It’s one of the things I love about writing for Plaza Voices -- this is a place to both share and claim the stories that make us who we are.

Want to read more stories of multiracial, multiethnic identity? Check out any of these recommended titles: 

Black Lotus: A Woman’s Search for Racial Identity by Sil Lai Abrams

Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match by Monica Brown

The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow

Mixed: An Anthology of Short Fiction on the Multiracial Experience edited by Chandra Prasad

Do you have a story or experience that is similar? A title to add to our list of recommendations? We would love for you to share it with us!

Plazas are an open community space where immigrants from all over the world connect with people, information, and resources, building Denver’s global community. Come to practice a language, prepare for citizenship, pursue your goals, and create your future. Whatever you’re doing, we can help! Please see our events calendar for more information.

Written by Desiree on August 28, 2017


Leigh on August 30, 2017


Thank you for this very thoughtful blog post, Desiree--diversity in America is what I think makes this country great and it is why I am proud to be an American--much like a beautiful tapestry with so many vibrant colors and textures: Vive la difference :-)

Josh @ GVR on August 30, 2017


Thanks for sharing your experiences Desi!

Leave a comment