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When I watched In the Heights, I cried with joy. I am Melissa Barrera’s unconditional fan. Then, a week later, I read about the controversy regarding the casting of lighter-skinned Latinx who didn’t represent the neighborhood’s racial makeup.


The criticism is valid, but I felt it was directed, in part, at people like me, mixed and racially ambiguous. My mother was Mexican and my father American; I was born in the US, raised in Mexico, and returned to the US in my thirties. In Mexico, I was la gringa; it afforded me certain privileges but reminded me I didn’t belong.


In the US, people call me Latina, Hispanic, a white-washed Mexican, a white-passing Mexican, a whitina, fake Mexican, and a brown “n-word”. This last one was in my neighborhood. My racial ambiguity allows me to blend in like a chameleon; it’s fun when I’m with white people, but I’ve experienced discrimination when I’m with my Chicano and Native husband.


I am a Chicana, with a foot planted in both American and Mexican culture. So I’m puzzled when I’m told I’m not Chicana enough; what’s the percentage?


Diversity enriches our communities, and cultural roots ground us; instead of excluding people, what if we include everyone willing to fight and dismantle racism?


I write about the immigrant experience and not belonging. Have you felt you don’t belong? Share your experiences in the comments below.


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