On the Margins of Identity

By John Juarez
Credits: Ricardo Esquivel

I can still hear the chanting coming from the TV: “Build the wall, build the wall!”. With the election of the 45th president of the United States, my community has been denigrated on the political stage. I am the Mexican of his United States– an invasive species. My mother tongue is a threatening weapon and my vibrant culture poses a threat to the American Dream. My entire being is policed by ignorance. 

Leading up to the election, the idea of prejudice wasn’t so forward in my mind. I was living in Pasadena Texas, a predominately Hispanic city that served as a bubble in which my peers and I were subject to remain in. Racism was only a thing I heard about when I watched political debates, television shows, and ____. I had the privilege of being shielded by the effects of prejudice. From a young age, my parents had always instilled within me that being Mexican did not make me inferior to anybody else and I still carry this principle with me to this day. My idyllic concept of equality was shifted once I heard the words: “They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists” being shouted by a weird-looking white dude in a suit. “Quien es ese”, my mother asked. At that moment, I didn’t know. 

The effects were immediate. The daily weather forecasts and local news quickly turned into reporting on his rhetoric. But, nobody thought he would win. We discussed the possibility of a racist country, but that quickly shifted for me When my family passed through north Texas on a road trip and I noticed a bright blue sign on the side of the roadway. “Build the wall” it read. This wall that Trump proposed was not only going to be physical, but it was a symbolic reminder that Latinos were not wanted. It was during this time when I really internalized that prejudice existed outside the stories told in the media– it was directly staring at me. And though I tried denying it, deep down that he was going to win. For the first time, I realized that I was a minority. 

I never lost hope in my vibrant community because despite what was happening in the political landscape, Pasadena still remained the same. It is a community that we have created to have protection in unity and it has shaped me into the individual I have become. Now, I bring along with me the upbringing of my community. I strive to share the values of my community and dispel the rumors that my president has spread about my people.