To the Editors,
I was thrilled when I found out last week that two Mexican students, Andrea Viejo and Cecilia Reyes, started a discussion in their opinion columns ("Mexican in New York," Jan. 29; "Another Mexican in New York," Feb. 8) about their experiences of coming to the U.S. I wish to extend their discussion by bringing it closer to home. This is mainly because I want to stress that the dichotomy that exists in the U.S. between “Mexican-Americans” and “temporal Mexicans in the U.S.” has roots in Mexico itself. These labels might hurt and sound exclusive. However, what hurts the most is that they are a reality—a reality that we can no longer ignore. Something that continues to strike me about my interaction with students at Columbia and people around New York is how little I’m associated with the physical Mexican stereotype, which tends to be thought of as a short, brown-skinned individual that works at one of the local delis.
To anyone that studies the economic and political history of Mexico, it will become evident that the mestizos (those of Spanish and indigenous descent), a category to which I belong, have benefited the most, while the indígenas, a category to which many “Mexican-Americans” belong, have been repeatedly and continually repressed both in our home country and in the U.S. I am aware that this is just a modest and simplistic way of portraying Mexican history. For our purposes, I think it gives sufficient background in order to point out that the dichotomy found in the U.S. is an extension of the one that originated in Mexico many centuries ago.
I can’t agree more with the fact that it is important to unpack some labels and stereotypes because they often reinforce differences. However, it is also important to reflect upon the reality of a label. What is it about the dichotomy of “Us” vs. “Them” that remains true in reality? What we cannot do is try to ignore a label because we don’t want to sound exclusive when the exclusiveness is a reality. I believe that in this case, even if it is discomforting, we—not only Mexicans—have to be aware of the dichotomies that are a reality within our society. This is important because we cannot aspire to have a more inclusive society unless we scrupulously look at our own society.
Lourdes Pintado, GS ’12
Feb. 13, 2012