"Yo Soy La Wedda"
Growing up In a Mexican family looking different
Piper Coolidge, Spicy Cilantro
Originally published at Spicy Cilantro
Published on LatinoLA: September 9, 2012
Spicy Cilantro welcomes our cousin Piper Coolidge who is also a descendant of our great grandmother Santos Olvera. Piper is a "gringa" looking "guera" (pronounced wedda and means the light skinned and blond one.) Piper is another creative and talented woman, a filmmaker, writer and a production designer. Her most recent film, "Botes Al Amanacer" is a low-budget short film that made it all the way to Cannes this year! We hope you enjoy her contributions.
"Memories about growing up in a Mexican family, where I always felt like I didn't fit in."
Growing up as a blond-haired blue-eyed child in a Mexican family, I always felt out of place. It seemed to me that I had been deprived somehow. My cousins had beautiful caramel complexions that deepened to a burnished glow in the summer months.
My skin looked like pescado in the winter, and I turned a bright and frightening red anytime the thermometer read higher than 89 degrees. Ours was a traditional Catholic family, except for my mother, who had embraced the hippie values of the 1960's, so I was never allowed to attend catechism with the rest of my cousins, furthering my feelings of alienation. In my young vulnerable eyes, I was an outcast. The only child to come from divorce, I knew that I just didn't fit in. My cousins (mostly the boys) teased me constantly, and I had to fight to survive.Now that I am grown, all of that has changed.
I have come to the understanding that the boys didn't just pick on me because I was blond. They picked on me because we were related. I could have brown red or purple hair, and the only thing that would have changed was the nature of the insults. Instead of calling me "Farrah," (after Farrah Fawcett) or "Blondie," or "Goldilocks," it would have been something else. If I would have hidden my tears and grinned to avoid being called a crybaby, they would have pointed out how crooked my smile was.
It doesn't matter what I looked like, how I behaved, or dressed or spoke. In our family, no one makes it to adulthood without getting made fun of, because that's how Mexicans show you they love you. Once in my early twenties my oldest cousin, Pablo, and I were working on my step-father's potato farm together, I got up the nerve to ask him why I had been such a target as a child. As we sorted through a pallet full of muddy russets, he listened silently as I nervously asked the question that had plagued me as a girl and into my teens. Why me? Was I targeted because I was the youngest girl or because I looked so white, or because they could make me cry so easily? I truly wanted to know why I was singled out.
His answer changed the way I saw myself, and what I perceived to be my place in our family forever. His reply?
"You're kidding, right? You think we don't like you? Of course we like you. You're one of us. Why do you think we gave you such a hard time? We would've been negligent if we let you go out in public the way you were. We thickened your skin, stupid. We made you strong, so that when you went out into the world, people could talk shit, and you would've already heard it from us. And just so you know, we make fun of each other, too. Have you seen the size of Johnny's head? That thing is as big as a watermelon. You think no one ever mentioned it to him before? Next time you come over to Gramma's, listen to the way we talk to each other."
And you know he was right. Countless times in life, someone has said something that might otherwise be cruel, but I have been able to laugh it off because, hey, I've already heard it before, usually over breakfast with my family. The ribbings I took as a child did strengthen me, and gave me the ability to get through this would without shedding tears at every turn, because I learned that I wasn't some fragile porcelain doll. I am Mexican, and we are fighters, we are survivors, and most of all, our family makes us strong.
How has being a part of a Latino family strengthened you?
Spicy Cilantro, All Rights Reserved, 2012