Updated: Nov 15
By David Ulloa Jr.
We are loud and proud people who have no clue what to call ourselves.
Am I Hispanic? Latino? Latinx? Latine? Mexican? Mexican-American? Mexicano? Chicanx? Chicane? Chicano? Indigenous? Mestizo? Latin? Spaniard?
I just listed 14 different labels, which are similar yet completely different, that I can be called.
I am not going to go through and explain all of these. There are contested studies and articles on the internet that attempt to explain it.
Everyone has their own perspective and experiences, so please note that I am writing this from the perspective of a straight, cis-gender, U.S.-born Mexican male.
Growing up in Maryvale, an area in west Phoenix, it seemed like the majority of my Mexican friends (including myself) knew what part of Mexico their families were from.
If race came into the conversation, a person might ask, “Are you Mexican or…?”
If that person was Mexican, they’d immediately ask what part, which meant “what state in Mexico is your family from?” But let’s face it, we’re not going to ask a long question like that.
This was just normal conversation.
Some families took extreme pride in the state they originated from.
My family was proud of where we were from, but we were never the type to initiate the question of “what part?”
So, what if you’re a “no sabo” (a misspelling of the Spanish phrase “no se”) kid who was born in the states and speaks the “improper” Spanglish of the states? What if you’re a second generation U.S. citizen who can speak Spanish but has never set foot in the motherland? What do you call yourself then?
I’m going to set this straight. I have a solution.
Call yourself what you want to call yourself.
I love my people, and I believe that we are unified by the hope of one day seeing our people advance in this society.
However, when there are 14+ identity labels, it shows the diversity of opinions among Mexicans. That’s not even counting Latin@/Latinx people as a whole.
Inclusivity is good.
In fact, we need inclusivity when we finish the work started by our forefathers and foremothers who endured much more hardships than us.
But don’t be a jerk about what label you identify as.
In my opinion, if you identify by a certain identity, cherish and take pride in it. But don’t tell someone else that they must identify by that label or else el cucuy (the Latino boogeyman) is going to get them.
It may seem odd, but I bet your idea of putting a ton of crema (sour cream) on your enchilada may seem odd to them. It’s how they identify and leave it at that.
Personally, I believe that there is no such thing as a person who is “purely Mexican” because we come in every shade, color and background in the rainbow.
I don’t know where my ancestors come from. The farthest I can trace back my family to is the pre-Pancho Villa days of my great-great-grandmothers and grandfathers, but even their stories are somewhat of a mystery.
Am I part indigenous? Most likely, this is indigenous land afterall.
Could my ancestors have been forced against their will from the African continent by the Spaniards? Most likely, but like I’ve said before, I don’t know where my ancestors come from.
For this reason, I do not go by either of these labels even though my ancestors could have very well been both.
Spaniard? I don’t use “vosotros” in my Spanglish vernacular, but probably.
So what do I call myself? Well, it depends on the situation.
If it’s paperwork I’m filling out, and fingers crossed it’s an option, I’ll mark Hispanic/Latino.
If I’m getting my COVID-19 shot (that’s a question the pharmacists asked at the place I went to), I’m Latino.
I am a second generation American born Mexican who takes pride in saying that my grandparents immigrated to this country, as well as my morenito (a little darker brown) skin.
I am a Mexican who will never say no to tacos and never skip “Hermoso Cariño” by Vicente Fernandez.
I’m also an American who will listen to the cheerful beats and somewhat sad lyrics of Elliot Smith.
OK, so, what do I identify as?
I refuse to call myself Latin. Something about that label just makes my tummy and head feel weird.
In my heart, soy Chicano ese (I’m Chicano dude) and I’m proud of it.
All photos taken by David Ulloa. Lowrider cars are depicted as an important symbol of Chicano culture to Ulloa. The cover photo, depicting a Nike Air Force shoe in front of a Zarape sash symbolizes Ulloa’s “Mexican-American duality type of background.“