Published On: Wed, May 19th, 2010

How much Latino is Latino enough?

Shelly Cone

How much Latino is Latino enough?  

by Shelly Cone

Whenever I look in the mirror,
I'm reminded in many ways that I'm
Latina. My dark features, full lips and strong nose say it. My ample
curves–thanks mom– confirm it. I'm reminded of my Hispanic roots every
time I come across an immigrant at the bus stop and they approach me
using a thick Spanish I barely recognize. They talk to me in Spanish not
because they can't speak English but more so because my looks lead them
to wrongly assume I speak the mother tongue. Even the Mexican-American
store clerks often address me in Spanish before seeing the "What the?"
look on my face and then revert to perfect English.

I'm proud to be Latina. However, I am also proud to be educated, I'm
proud to be ambitious and career oriented and financially stable. I'm
really proud to be married to my Caucasian husband and extremely proud
of the three boys our union has produced. Each one a unique blend of
dark hair, light green eyes, and dirty blond hair with dark green eyes,
and finally the littlest, with light brown hair and dark brown eyes.
Each one with skin that goes from the color of café con leche in the
winter to a rich burnt caramel brown in the summer.

So why am I considered a white girl? By my relatives. The same family
that watched me pound bowls of menudo, platefuls of enchiladas, and
snack on tortillas and butter, and empanadas?

For some time I'd gotten used to the whispers: "She's our 'white'
cousin. snicker, snicker." Then for a while maybe I became oblivious to

Then last weekend I attended an event. Birthday party, funeral it's all
the same, we have a dance and everyone wears black. Except me. All I
could find to wear was a white strapless dress with a white sweater, a
belt made of sea shells, a white flower in my hair and flip flops. I
looked good. OK, actually, I was smoking hot. So I was prepared for a
few stares. My husband and I walked into the hall and everyone stared,
and whispered. I tried to shrug it off and make the rounds, kissing tia
Terri on the cheek and giving uncle Jackie a hug and a high five, cousin
David a pat on the back and politely shaking the hand of my other tia's
on-and-off-again husband. Then I heard it. Someone gave me a hug and
said, "Oh honey, I didn't recognize you, I said to myself 'Who is that
white girl walking in?" hee hee."

Yeah, ha, ha. It has stopped being funny.

I wonder what makes them say that. I've often wanted to ask but I'm
afraid of the answer. Is it a derogatory thing? If that's the case, I
take offense because my husband is white and my children are half.

Is is a compliment?
If that's the case, then I'm disappointed that being
called an ethnicity other than my own is a compliment. Like it's better
to be white than it is to be Latino. It would be a sad thing if that's
what my relatives believe inside.

What makes them more Latino than me?
Is it the foods we eat, because my
husband makes salsa hotter than anything my relatives could eat and can
drink tequila with the best of them. Is it that they pepper more of
their sentences with Spanish than I do? Tell that to my 2-year-old who
doesn't know what 'water' is but loves to play in the 'agua' (or 'awa'
as he says it) outside on a hot day.

They watch baseball, we like soccer. We can name every little authentic
Latin-food-hole-in-the-wall in town, they like the franchise
restaurants. I could go on, but you see it really gets me no where. It
never answers the question.

So I'll write this and then let it go. And I'll go home and fix some
enchiladas (my family's favorite) and make up some homemade dulce de
leche for our dessert. And be comfortable with who I am. A modern
American Latina.

Have you ever had to prove your Latino-ness?

Sofrito guest blogger, Shelly Cone (@shellycone) is a reporter and public relations pro who rants and raves at her

How much Latino is Latino enough?