“Yo soy”, I am Latino/Chicano/Mexicano




I would like to thank Ms. QueMeansWhat for hosting me this past month, and you dear readers for tuning in. I have had fun sharing my thoughts and reflections on aspects of my identity. If you missed, you can read about me being a “maestro”, about me being an “aguacate”, and how I like to draw.

Now I part with you with these thoughts on how I identify as an overall Chicano/Latino/Mexican, especially since I tend to use: “Mexicano by birth, Chicano/Latino by identity, illustrator by practice, and conservationist by pursuit.”

My first cultural identity was Mexican because well, that is where I was born and was formative in my early years—that was my nationality. Simply put, mine was a Mexican household with Spanish music Sunday church-going and tortilla-eating meals. There would be Los Bukis or Tigres Del Norte in the background with my parents in the cocina cooking up some dish to be eaten with tortillas and later hear about the tías.

I do not recall too many “What are you” questions, but I would simply tell people “I’m from Mexico”. Nowadays, I do not mind that question, but I clarify people that I was born in Mexico, and if they are interested,  I welcome a conversation of how even within Mexico it’s different, comparing if you are from the North, Center, or South. I’ll still proudly claim to be Mexican.

Later on, I cannot say I recall the exact moment I identified as a Latino—most likely when I started seeing the term on applications and forms. I would then further explore what that meant through education and figuring out why Latino was an identity and what it meant to me. Those were my early years in clubs like MEChA, MAYO, and the Hispanic Youth Leadership Council. Now, connecting it to Mexican roots, I use Latino as my cultural anchor identity. If you want to read more on my thoughts defining Latino, I put some thoughts here.

Finally, why do I identify as a Chicano? I am not a “Mexican-American” in the sense that I was born in the US with a Mexican/Hispano lineage. I also have few direct connections to the Chicano movements of the 60’s and 70’s in the sense that I was there, or had family involved in it.

I use Chicano via a definition I appropriated from Alfredo Figueroa, that Chicanos are “defenders of the culture”. I combined that from my college days where we saw Chicanos as a political identity more so than a strictly skin color or ancestry. This is an identity I hold to this day. The good news is I feel I have an investment in helping define that identity. The bad news is that many still misunderstand it, think of it as “too political”, or as “from the past”. But that is okay, I see it as helping redefine Chicanismo for the now and the future.

So am I Latino? Yes. Am I Chicano? Yes. Am I Mexican? Yes. Am I Hispanic? Sure. I do not change my answer necessarily on the context—I think of my intent and purpose. I believe in a multicultural present and future, and what I need to do to por mi gente and por la causa as an inclusive endeavor so that we can all benefit from diversity, regardless of socioeconomic status, skin color, and language.

So I’ll chat with you in academic English, semi-academic Spanish, Spanglish, throw in some code-switching, even a caló word or two. It is all good to me so long as I hold true and keep exploring the core of my identity as a Latino, Chicano, and Mexicano…along with the other identities that define me.

José Gonzalez

José G. González “es un teacher” with classroom and outdoor experience across all age levels, from elementary school to college. Currently he is a Butler-Koshland Fellow with Radio Bilingüe and serves as an adjunct faculty member with the National Hispanic University in their Teacher Education Department. He is interested in the intersection of Latinos and environmental/conservation issues. Mexicano by birth, Chicano/Latino by identity, illustrator by practice, and conservationist by pursuit, he grew up in the Valle Central of California. Contact him for ideas, thoughts, workshops, collaborations, etc.

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