We Are America

Voices of the Nation's Future

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Photo ofWendy Luengas

When I was twelve, I started to pay more attention to my surroundings. I started to notice people staring at me. I could tell they were judging me by the looks they were giving me. They would frown at  me or make disgusted faces. After a while, I realized they were judging me because of my culture. They would say things like “she’s Mexican” or “she speaks Spanish, she doesn’t belong here.” This affected me so much that I didn’t want to go out anymore.  One time, my parents were going to go to the store and I would usually go with them because I liked going out, but this time I didn’t want to go be- cause of the way others judge me. I didn’t want to express what I was feeling to my family or friends, so I kept quiet. I felt like if I told someone about what was happening to me they would just make fun of me or say that I was just being dramatic. When I would go out with my mom, I could feel their eyes on me. At times I felt like I didn’t want to be part of my culture because people didn’t like my culture and I wanted to fit in with them.  One of the times I experienced this was when I was in a store with my mom and she was speaking to me in Spanish. Right away I noticed how this old lady looked at us. She thought we didn’t speak English and she said, “They don’t belong here.” At first, it upset me, but when I kept thinking about it I became angry at myself for not standing up and saying something. My mom didn’t understand what she said and I didn’t tell her because I didn’t want her to get upset and start thinking she didn’t belong here. This was the worst experience because that lady was the first person that said something offensive in addition to shooting us dirty looks. Ever since that old lady said that I have always been insecure about where I come from. I remember one time my family and I went to a different church, a church where all the prayers were in English, because we were late to the service. The church we typically attended was full of Hispanic people but the new church was full of light- skinned worshippers. As soon as I stepped into the church I wanted to get out of there. I felt like I was going to be judged by others because we weren’t their color or came from the same culture. Surprisingly, they didn’t care where we came from or what our skin color was. When we had to greet each other they were really nice and friendly. They made me feel like I belonged in a public space for the first time ever.  Two years have passed and I’m slowly getting over the feeling of people judging me and being insecure about my culture. I’m getting over it by not letting people’s thoughts get to me. I’ve realized how important my culture is and how I should be proud of the dances, food, and activities we have because they are unique. A big thing that impacted how I feel about my culture was when I went to Mexico for the first time. I saw all the various cultural aspects and lived completely as myself. Now, my culture plays a tremendous part in my life. I’ve learned my culture is different from other cultures and I need to appreciate it for all it’s worth. 

© Wendy Luengas. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team through this website and we can put you in touch with the young person’s teacher.