Stop telling Latinos they are not Latino enough

Every time I meet someone new, there is a moment when they try to figure out my ethnicity. “ Are you half white?” “ Are you half Mexican?” “ You look really white.” Then there are some who just assume I am either white or Mexican.

This started with the kids on the playground. There were the Mexican kids who mostly spoke Spanish and the white kids—and then there was me who did not fit in with either group. Since elementary school, I have learned to defend myself when a person says I do not look or sound Mexican enough; I say my family is not as light complexioned I am, or I say my first language was actually Spanish. Regardless of my answer, I should not have to defend myself.

For someone to assume that I must not know my own background is insulting. I have no reason to lie about who I am or my heritage. This is what I call “Latino/Hispanic shaming,”  telling someone they do not look or sound Latino enough and therefore cannot call themselves Latino or Hispanic.

Being Latino is not a club where being a member means you must be brown. Latino people look different across the nations and are not defined by how they look or act. A Latino can be blonde and have blue eyes. No one should be criticized by the community they identify with just because they do not look like the majority.

I am not the only person who has experienced this. Actress Gina Rodriguez was told she was not Latina enough when fans saw one of her Instagram posts and criticized her Spanish.  “I am as Latina as they come. I am not defined by anybody’s definition of Latino,” Rodriguez said in an interview with HuffPost live. Like Rodriguez, when others question me I begin to question my own identity.

Yes, I know my complexion is very light. I know that my Spanish is not perfect and I am trying to work on that, but I am Mexican and incredibly proud of it. To say I do not belong in the culture that I love and embrace is an insult. I have gone to Mexico six times, I watch telenovelas, I enjoy Spanish music and I continue to hold onto food and traditions that my parents and grandparents taught me. I have known the words to “Suavemente”  since I was a child.  

It is an easy mistake to assume someone is a certain race or ethnicity when they are not, and it is understandable, but to continue to question someone after they have explained their background is hurtful. I question whether I am really a member of the Mexican community. I feel excluded. I feel hurt. I feel as if I need to prove to my other Mexican friends that I am a valuable member of their community.  

This same idea applies to other groups as well. Telling someone who is black they do not act black is just as insulting. A person’s ethnicity is self-identifiable, people should not be able to exclude others from a group they did not create or define themselves.




4 thoughts on “Stop telling Latinos they are not Latino enough

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  1. Trust me when I say the key to this mattering less and less, and eventually dying out, is – US. We Latinos and Hispanics, however we identify ourselves, embracing the diverse heritage we share.

    People try to figure out my ethnicity all the time. It’s becoming a more difficult task in America all the time. I point out that yes, my mom’s family is from Mexico, my dad’s from Portugal and Spain, but guess what? I’m from the United States.

    Embrace that! We’re the fabric of America, we people of Latino roots. My buelita will make tortillas differently than yours. My uncles will use different words than aunts in your family. We’re defined by our lineage and also our standing in this great country now – not by a random passerby’s need to categorize us or attempt to fit us into this bucket or that.

    You’ve touched on a prevalent Hispanic reality in America in this post. Continue to hear and see what’s around you, how you’re received, how you feel you fit in. But always know that the vast majority of what will become your perception of your place will come from you, not those who choose to judge you.

    By asking these questions, by writing about the experience, you’re giving voice to the experience much like many young people know. Keep it up. Keep writing, keep observing, keep asking. I love that you popped into my blog and directed me here. I look forward to reading more of your work.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes you’re right! We are also Americans and we each have a different story. People try to fit us into different categories and it’s difficult because Latino/Hispanic is so broad and we all have different experiences in the United States. We look different, our use of language is different and we don’t all adapt to American society the same way, but we share similarities by being Latino and in the United States. No matter our status we feel we can be apart of this country even if others say otherwise. Thank you for your feedback!!


  2. Hi Gabrielle,
    I teach Latinos. I did hear one Hispanic girl say her last name was not Hispanic enough. I think people should embrace themselves and each other.
    I met you at Jason’s blog party. I blog over at Maybe you can check out my blog if you need any blogging tips. That’s what I blog about. I also host blog parties like Jason.

    Liked by 1 person

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