I’ve lost count to the number of times I’ve heard the statement I dread so much:
“You don’t look Mexican.”
Well, “what does a Mexican look like?” I’ve asked in return. How does a Mexican act? What does a Mexican believe?
Ever since I can remember, I’ve plagued myself with these questions attempting to understand my culture so I can explain it and share it with those who truly know nothing about one of America’s next-door neighbors.
But just as well, growing up as a Chicana (a 2nd generation Mexican raised in the U.S.), I saw just how closed-minded a lot of Mexicans could be. So, in my attempt to educate Americans about the Mexican culture in Chicago, I hope to teach Mexicans—immigrants especially—about the American culture as well.
The thing that interests me the most about this region is that it’s right next door. It’s right next door yet so many people don’t bother to learn anything about it or even remotely understand it. I want to change that. There are people who love the Mexican culture and want to learn all about it; they might read anything I write. But it’s those who never really gave the culture a second thought that are going to drive me to tell a really good story.
Because of the well-known segregation in Chicago, it’s obvious where the Mexican communities are. The Pilsen/Little Village area stood out to me the moment I stepped on its’ streets. The “Bienvenidos a Little Village” sign at the port of entry that greets people on 26th Street in Little Village was only the beginning to my trip down Mexico lane. The smell of fresh baked pan dulce (pastries), made-from-scratch tortillas and corn on the cob confirms this is, indeed, the Mexico of the Midwest.