INTERVIEWED BY ELEANOR PARK
What’s your name? How do you culturally/racially/ethnically identify?
My name Julieta Estrada, And I am Hispanic. Both my parents were born in Chihuahua, Mexico and my parents had me in the United States.
Where were you born? Where do you live now?
I was born in El Paso, Texas and that’s where I live now. However, it was not always like that; once my parents had me, they took me back to Mexico, and I spent some of my childhood living in Mexico until my parents moved to El Paso. I started 2nd grade not knowing any English and having to start from 0 with a new language.
What languages did you grow up speaking at home? What language are you most familiar with/comfortable with?
I grew up speaking Spanish at home, but after starting school in the U.S., English became my most comfortable and familiar language.
How has culture played a role in your daily life?
Culture has played a very big role in my life since I was little. Growing up with two Mexican parents was and still is a very fun experience. Since I was little, my parents have introduced me to the Mexican culture and traditions, like eating tamales on holidays, eating Menudo every Sunday, and eating homemade Mexican classics like chilaquiles, tacos, and burritos. My culture had a lot to do with my clothes on special holidays, since 16 de Septiembre (independence day for Mexico) and 20 de Noviembre (Mexican revolution), are very important dates for Mexican culture. My mom would make me wear this dress with red and green colors, wear my hair up with accessories, and sometimes paint my face with the Mexican flag (picture below). And music--well I grew up listening to my parent’s cliche romantic songs talking about falling love and sad songs about heartbreak, but thanks to that, they made me have a pretty good music taste, and now, whenever we play songs in the car, I can sing along with them. I also grew up very religious, with Christian parents who were quite strict.
How does your current location influence your daily life?
The place where I live isn’t bad, but some of the people who live here are hard to deal with. There is a lot of racism and a lot of people that hate Mexicans and say slurs. I think El Paso isn’t the most educated place with the nicest people, but I think every place is like that. Living here is sometimes scary, because you never know when someone will tell you something about your race or your native language. I know some of my family and friends that have gone through some racist and scary encounters with other people, like almost getting kidnapped and getting the cops called on them just because of their skin color and because they were speaking Spanish.
What holidays are special to you and how do you celebrate them?
Holidays and traditions are very important to my family, and because of that, my family likes to celebrate a lot of them. For example, Quinceneras are a prevalent tradition that my family celebrates and makes a huge deal about, and it seems as if every month there is someone new that is turning 15 and having a big party. Quinceneras are when a teen (most of the time a girl) turns 15 and turns into a woman and they have this huge party with family and friends. Another tradition my family has is opening Christmas presents on Christmas eve at night. I believe this tradition started because all of the kids in my family were too impatient to wait till the morning.
What are some customs/traditions/rituals that your family participates in?
My family has a lot of traditions and customs like taking an hour to literally say goodbye and greet everyone at the whole party! Another thing is always making us go to parties of people we have never even met, and throwing quinceanera parties and staying there till 2 or 3 AM on school nights.
What fairy tales/childhood stories/songs from your culture did you hear while growing up?
A child is usually told that if their tooth fell out the fairy would come and leave money, or that Santa was real, but my family was an exception. If you did something wrong, it would mean El Cucuy would come and get you or that El Sombrero would kidnap you, and even if they were a little too harsh to tell a kid, it would show them to not do the same thing twice. But on the other hand, I also grew up with nice stories about princess and kings like most kids. I remember my mom would come and sing songs and tell a story to me when I used to be too scared, and lay with me until I fell asleep. Something I remember is that she never told the same story twice. She always came up with these crazy and wild stories.
What are some activities you participate in that relate to your culture? (ex: some form of self-defense, dance, etc.)
My family loves to do a lot of stuff and participate in a lot of things, and of course, they had to bring me into those things, like dancing Folklorico in the school. Even though it is a beautiful dance, it just wasn’t for me. I would not like the dress and I wasn’t good at dancing either, same with playing the guitar and cooking. Sometimes it was hard relating to my family because my family loves music and playing instruments but I can’t find the same kind of happiness in playing music.
What are some challenges that you face/have faced that you think people from other cultures might not have dealt with?
I think being Mexican in a place where a lot of people have hate towards us is hard, and I don’t think a lot of people understand it. I am glad some people don’t have to go through being called slurs or anything like that. There have been times where people were just so rude toward me or my family because of our race and our native language, like being told to speak English because “this is America,” but it’s funny how the same people who tell us these things go and eat our food and wear our clothes.
What are some unique experiences that you’ve had that are related to your culture?
Because I can speak Spanish, I usually have many people telling me to translate stuff and help them with a word in Spanish, and since I have been translating stuff since I was in 2nd grade for my mom, I would say I’m pretty good at it. It makes me happy being able to help people, even if it is a simple word or a simple task.
How has your culture affected the way people treat/see you? Have you ever been treated poorly because of your beliefs/ethnicity/race?
My ethnicity has always been out there, and a lot of people know my ethnicity. That sometimes is not good. Ever since I was little, a lot of kids would make fun of me and my eyes or my skin color, but it has never been something that has truly bothered me.
What are some incorrect assumptions people have made about you, your family, or your culture? Have these ever caused you or your family problems?
I think the media portrays us Mexicans as people who are always eating tacos, or that we are in the mafia, or that we are dealers, when that isn’t the case at all. I think social media and movies don’t portray our culture too well, but we are barely even in movies so I think it doesn’t matter to most producers.
Are there any untrue myths or stereotypes about your culture that particularly annoy you?
We usually face stereotypes, like we always eat tacos or only Mexican food all the time, and that we all like reggaeton, when none of those are true. My family actually barely eats tacos, and if I have to be honest I hate reggaeton.
What would you like to see in your country’s future?
I would appreciate it if more people studied our culture more, and I wish that people would be more accepting of us, accepting that we have different traditions and a different language.
Why do you think it’s important to share your story or for people to share their cultural stories in general?
I think it is really important to share my story because I can help others by showing them what I had to go through being a Mexican in the U.S., and by educating other people about my culture and how different people have to go through different experiences. I think learning about other cultures can make you understand different things that maybe you didn’t understand before.