"Rrftw, rrps" spits flying out of my mouth as I'm attempting for the millionth time in my 41 years of life to trill my RR's. A majority of my life I have felt like an outsider within my ethnic community. When I was younger, I longed to wear big hoop earrings, wear tight clothes and have tons of sass. I believed this to be the definition of a true Latina when I was a kid. I never had actually seen a Latina fitting this description unless on tv. The Latinas I knew wore jeans and t-shirts and modest amounts of jewelry. There was no lip smacking or hands furiously moving about during a conversation. I have many Latina women in my life, all of them professionals and upstanding citizens. In my younger years, I didn't realize that Latinas weren't the larger than life, flamboyant characters I saw on telenovelas.
"You sound like a white girl, you're a white girl in a Latina's body." Man, if I had a quarter for every time heard that I could afford to see my therapist more often. My last name is Summers, a name that I am proud of having but…"You look more like a Gonzalez or a Rodriguez." I get these types of comments A LOT. One look at me and it's apparent that I am a Latina. My light brown skin and dark brown hair give it away but Summers always confuses some people. They look me up and down, "Are you sure your last name is Summers?" Yes, yes I am. The curious glances and questioning come from Caucasians and Latinos primarily. Each not quite sure where I fit into America's melting pot.
"This is great! You're Latina but you talk like a white girl on the phone. Wow, you're really going to surprise people when they see you!" I work for a Latino business and help to answer phones using my "white girl" voice. My Latina pride, rises up within me, I want to correct my employer whenever I hear it but is she right? I grew up in an all white neighborhood and now live in a predominantly white community. My job is located downtown near a large, Latino area. I talk to many Latinos for my job and encounter funny looks. I look "Latina" but I sound like a "gringo." is a comment often made when I meet people. In a need to justify my Latina roots I spew off facts, "I was born in Costa Rica, my mom is Puerto Rican, I visit the island a lot, salsa is fantastico!" I hate that I do it but I do it all the same. Today, my employer asked me to twrill my RR's when talking on the phone. She gave me examples of words and how to pronounciate them, I just nodded and died inside. The elusive RR twilling came to bite me in the ass. "I should have tried harder to learn it, maybe YouTube has a tutorial?" I pondered this as I drove home; I can't figure out how I feel so I don't know whether to be offended or not.
Once, a coworker asked if I was bilingual, I gave my usual response"No, but I am proficient." She scornfully looked at me "How come you can't speak Spanish and all these gringos can?!" I was tempted to get on my soap box and declare my love for gringos. My father, brother, boyfriend and many family members are gringos and they're amazing!! I didn't say anything though and walked away embarrassed, I suck at being a Latina.
My lips feel tingly and my tongue raw. While unburdening my problems to you, I have been pathetically trying to twrill my RR's. Why though? I am a Latina and I'm proud of it! A Latina can be anything she wants to be! According to many people, I am "white" by the way I speak, act and my zip code. My "whiteness" according to some fellow Latinos allows me to be more accepted into the "white culture." I am not defined by only one characteristic. I am a mom, sister, daughter, friend, and other wonderful characteristics. I am Latina and so much more. Now excuse me, I need to clean off my screen.