Conchas and German Chocolate Cake – A Mixed Narrative
Story by Sarah Rodriguez
Pictures by Grace McDaniel
“You’re like… basically white though.” I don’t even know how many times I’ve been told this throughout my life. What the hell does that even mean? I am half Hispanic, half white. That is not an opinion, nor is it an argument. However, this statement has come from both Hispanic and white people in my life. As a mixed individual, statements like this leave you feeling confused and invalidated.
I absolutely recognize that I am white passing. And I recognize how I am privileged because of that. But that does not erase the unique culture that I have grown up in. I am not “basically white.” I am Latina. Just as any other girl with a Latino father is- regardless of whatever ethnicity their mother may be.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve realized that - regardless of one’s race- “basically white” just means that a white person doesn’t feel uncomfortable around you, or a latinx individual equates a true Latino experience to only what they themselves have experienced. Sometimes, ‘you’re basically white’ meant the ways another person and I lived and were raised were too similar for them to feel superior. I was not, am not, and never will be “basically white.” You’re white. And a white person saying that anyone is “basically white” is just a way of saying you don’t feel threatened by a person of color.
"I buy conchas and empanadas for my
apartment to make it feel more like home
and the German chocolate cake my
mother makes is precious to me."
Sometimes, 'you’re basically white' means that someone doesn’t take my Latina identity seriously. My life never included la chancla, speaking Spanish in my house, or Limpia rituals. But I had my own Latina experience. My life is not a watered down version of yours. It’s mine and it’s half full of a contrasting culture. It is uncomfortable for me when Latinos say I’m basically white. But at least it’s not as disgusting as a white person telling me I’m ‘basically white’ and it inherently being intended as a complement.
I often feel lucky to be able to relate to such a broad range of people on a cultural level. I feel lucky to be able to recognize both the problems and achievements of two cultures. I however do not feel lucky to conceive that I need to discredit half of my life in order to please a group of people.
My skin grows tan in the summer and the freckles on my face emerge. As a little girl I was just as excited to put on a folklorico skirt as I was a tutu. My childhood birthdays included hitting a piñata next to my grandmother’s chicken coop in Middle of Nowhere, Texas. Sundays in San Antonio meant cleaning the house while listening to a mix of Fleetwood Mac and Gloria Estefan. I buy conchas and empanadas for my apartment to make it feel more like home and the German chocolate cake my mother makes is precious to me.
Don’t tell me who I am and who I am not. I am Sarah Madeleine Rodriguez. That’s Madeleine with an extra ‘e’- as the French spell it. And Rodriguez with a ‘z’- the Mexican surname.