Multi-American | How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Where are you from, anyway? One Mexican/German/Irish writer's complicated answer

Ah, that question. A touchy one for many descendants of immigrants, including for me, a light-skinned Latina and recovering Catholic schoolgirl with a surname that frequently confuses people in terms of both ethnicity and religion. But then, as the Bard of Indiana (aka John Mellencamp) once put it, ain't that America?

WAMU's DCentric blog in Washington, D.C. has posted a great essay on the "Where are you from?" question by A.C. Valdez, whose deep mixed roots lie in Texas. He writes about why it doesn't suffice to say one is American, especially in the age of the never-ending immigration debate in which "many Latinos are considered immigrants by default." From the intro:

Asking someone "Where are you from?" may seem simple enough, but it"s actually a tricky question, particularly for mixed-race Latinos. For instance, before asking your race, the U.S. Census form asks whether you are Hispanic or non-Hispanic. What if you identify as both?

My father is a genealogy buff, and although I"ve generally been uninterested by it, I do owe it to him that I know at least a bit about where I come from. My ancestry is quarter German, quarter Irish and half Chicano. My father grew up in South Texas, an area heavily populated by Latinos. For many Americans, that would seem to indicate that most residents are immigrants who recently settled in the area. But going back far enough, it"s likely that my ancestors have been around since Texas was first colonized by Spain. In other words, the border crossed us, not the other way around.

Latinos who might, at first blush, appear to be "just" white, black or otherwise not stereotypically Latino, are left with complex answers to "Where are you from?"

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