Salsa the Blog

Growing Up Latina by Marisa Mendoza

My father was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, and made the decision to immigrate to the United States when he was only 19. He was in search of a better life where he could support himself and a family. My mother was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to a white, upper-middle class, and educated, Jewish family. My parents met in a Chinese restaurant they both worked at and quickly fell in love. They got married, had my brother and I, and settled down in the small SoCal town of Moorpark. They chose this location because it was ranked as one of the county’s safest cities and was the perfect place to raise a family. And while I was very lucky and grateful for being able to grow up in a safe environment, things were not always easy.

All the schools I attend in Moorpark, preschool through high school, were full of mainly white people. I was one of the very few brown people in my friend, project, and extracurricular groups. I may not have realized it at the time, but the way I looked certainly had an impact on the way I was treated. People would always assume that I speak Spanish and would call me a beaner, or tell me to “go back where I came from”. I noticed that some of my teachers didn’t interact with me the same way that they did with their white students. I often felt that they doubted my intellectual ability and it was extremely discouraging. When I announced my interest in the field of law, many people didn’t take it seriously and told me I’d be better off being a cosmetologist. 

These are just a few of the many experiences I have of being discriminated against as a Latina in the U.S. Although these painful moments are something I will always remember, I refuse to let them define me. These moments have made me stronger and have inspired me to fight for others just like myself. Despite everything that has been thrown my way, I am a Latina and I am proud.