De dónde eres? / Where are you from?
Created May 2015 in Punta Hermosa, Peru
What does it mean to be a gringa?
What does it mean to be an American?
Yep, I’m a brown girl. I have slanted dark brown eyes, a narrow, athletic build, and I’m pretty tall. I speak Spanish with a “particular” accent, which I’ve taken to mean indicates my nationality is unintelligible.
When my passport is requested by the police at routine military checkpoints, I repeat multiple times that I am, in fact, from the United States. Sometimes, my passport gets confiscated.
In Peru, most think I am Peruvian, but am just some sort of freakishly tall Peruvian. In Chile and Argentina, I was told that I could be from Colombia, Brazil, Venezuela, or “Central America.” I’d later come to find out that in those more Europeanized countries of South America (where lighter skinned people are the only ones who travel because “they” are the only ones with money), i.e. Argentina and Chile, locals might guess I’m from those countries because of how I look, not for my Spanish accent.
(Yet here I was, for 8 months, thinking I had some really great accent from Bogota! Am I disappointed in humanity that I have been grouped into a stereotype? Or, perhaps, am I more saddened that I am not taken for a native Spanish speaker? Perhaps this is the burden of adopting my mother tongue later in life. Uncertainty. It dwells.)
In Spain, 10 years ago, a cab driver once asked my why I have such “Chinese eyes.” Shocked, I realized: nationality is a construct that external parties cannot associate to me. Am I that fluid? That general? That….unidentifiable?
So where am I from? I’m from the United States of America, dammit. And yes, we do come in all colors, not just straw-blonde with blue eyes. Welcome to Multiracial America.