absolutelyaleta's blog

blogging for dummies

just another “high and mighty” Mexican

continuing my weekend excursions into sharing some of my earlier writing. here’s a piece i wrote and performed in ’98.

The earliest incident where I was forced to really think about my ethnicity was when I was 15 years old. You see I rode a city bus home every day from school. This particular day was like any other normal day at least it started out that way. I boarded the bus, put my money down the shoot, and said “transfer, please” to the driver like I had done many times before. The driver, a Hispanic man in his late 40’s, handed it to me without saying anything. Seconds after I had took my seat, I heard this voice say “I am so sick of you coming on this bus and acting so high and mighty, ripping that transfer out of my hand. Who do you think you are? You better start showing me some manners. Treat me with respect.” It sounded like such a cliche I almost laughed. I looked around at first not believing he was talking to me. But there was no denying who he was talking to. He was standing over my seat looking down at me with such intensity that my face felt like it was on fire. I heard a kid snicker from the back of the bus. No one interfered on the packed bus but most looked sympathetic. He turned and went back to his seat. I kept thinking “Had I ripped the transfers out of his hand? I didn’t think so. And I had always said “please and “thank you” to him. I tried as hard as I could to remember a time where I had done something out of the ordinary. Was there a time when I had acted rude or high and mighty? I was left wondering why I was feeling so completely embarrassed and humiliated when he was the one who acted so ridiculously. I also couldn’t help but think that if I had looked more Mexican he would not have given me a second thought. Of course I have no proof that his tirade was racially motivated but if it wasn’t that, than what was it. Was it because I dressed well? Was it because I was a young teenager? Was it because I didn’t say “have a nice day” when I exited the bus? Was it this? Was it that? I shouldn’t have to try to figure out what’s wrong with me.

But yet I find I’m still doing that. Competition has always been fierce in acting. So I learned in my “Auditions” class to find whatever makes you different and sell it to them. So being Mexican became a commodity. Before that I never took much notice to it except to brag to my friends about my Nana’s beans and tortillas. I remember a director saying to me on the first night of rehearsal for The House of Bernarda Alba “Aleta, how do you pronounce this word?” After I made what I thought was a pretty good attempt, she then said, “Wait a minute, you do speak Spanish don’t you?” I shook my head and it was clear she was disappointed, she kinda smiled and chuckled a little bit as if to say, “great, just great.”

I’ve had other audition experiences where I just wasn’t quite Mexican enough either. Yes, I have the last name Garcia but I don’t have the thickest accent or I just can’t roll my “r’s” very well. See what I mean. Or most definitely, I just don’t look Mexican enough. Of course there are many roles that I simply was not right for. But… there was one time in my life where I was definitely Mexican enough. I remember taking a Spanish class at a community college where I was immediately selected by the teacher to be in this special group of 4 who amazingly enough were all Mexican like myself. We were given different lessons than the rest of the class. Even though I quickly told the teacher I could speak only about 5 words in Spanish he explained to me that because I was Mexican I would catch on a lot quicker than the rest of the class. I silently begged to differ. After a few classes I was actually scared to be called on in class because the other students looked at us all like we were the teacher’s assistants or something. In fact we actually were required to walk around the class and help the other students with any trouble they were having with the lesson. ME helping another student? The other students ended up helping me. The only phrase I was confident with was “asi asi” and you can only say that so many times. But what the heck it made me feel good to know that the teacher had such confidence in me. And the homework was a lot less than the rest of the students and much easier. Needless to say I learned NOTHING from that class. He kept saying, “you grasp the accent so well.” What I didn’t grasp was anything about how to speak the language. I tried to tell him how lost I was but he would just listen to me and reassure me I was doing fine. I got an “A” in the course. Imagine that, an “A” just for being Mexican. I guess there are worst things in life. But I never felt good about it that grade and I never took Spanish again. You might be curious to know if the teacher was Mexican and I can’t tell you for sure because I don’t remember his name. I do remember he was blond and blue eyed. But I should know more than anyone that appearances don’t mean anything.


February 28, 2010 - Posted by | Earlier Pieces I've Written | , , , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. Aleta – this is SOOO good and I love this; I am learning so much about you. It’s also just fascinating on its own

    Comment by Trixie | March 1, 2010 | Reply

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