Writer: Emily Martinez
I used to believe every brown skinned Hispanic was Mexican, but I didn’t take the time to look in the mirror. I’m not even brown or full Mexican, so what make it okay for me to judge by the color of someone’s skin or a physical characteristic? Considering different cultures, I came upon biracialism. I’ve known what it is, but I never took the time to ask a biracial person their experience within their communities or life.
Half Asian, Half Hispanic
*Tia means aunt in Spanish.
Jessica Bonilla and her brother were raised by their mother while their father worked hard to get by. Her mother is from Thailand, while her father was born in El Salvador.
“When I was younger, I mostly identified as Asian…up until the 5th grade when I moved to a different school is when I started embracing my Hispanic side. Right now, when people ask me for my race, I say I am mixed.”
Bonilla has gone to both El Salvador and Thailand, most recently Thailand. She says both countries are completely different, not just within the culture, but economically and socially. She noticed that in El Salvador they didn’t have a lot of necessities that she has easy access to in America. Compared to El Salvador, in Thailand she does feel like it’s a higher class within her family specifically.
“In El Salvador we didn’t have Wi-Fi – we didn’t need it. We didn’t have hot water, or running water. In my tia’s neighborhood, we only had running water during certain times throughout the day. My other tia had a rural lifestyle. She lived on a farm with chickens and stuff, and we didn’t have electricity there. I experience two different lifestyles in El Salvador. In Thailand, I have an aunt who lives a rural lifestyle, but compared to my tia in El Salvador, she had running water and electricity. In Thailand, I felt more of a tourist. We’d go to different parts of the country, and in El Salvador, I’d mostly stay home with my tias and the rest of my family.”
Being biracial, Bonilla further explained the struggle of being two races, and why it can be difficult to balance both roots.
“Sometimes I feel like I’m not Asian enough, other times I feel like I’m not Hispanic enough, so I must be Asian enough for the Asians, and Hispanic enough for the Hispanics,” Bonilla said.
Bonilla is trilingual. She describes how tough it is to learn a third language since she was not raised speaking Spanish fluently.
“I do speak both Spanish and Thai. I learned Thai from my mom, obviously. As I mentioned earlier, she was the one who raised me. I learned most of my Spanish in high school…I will say that it was harder to learn, but I did know general Spanish from my dad,” she said.
Bonilla attends the University of North Texas and plans to major in Biology and minor in Chemistry.
Half White, Half Hispanic
Hill’s mother moved from Peru at eighteen years old to help support her family financially, eventually her siblings and parents came to America as well.
“I haven’t gone to Peru, but I will make sure that I will go one day. I’ve always wanted to visit where my mom my mom grew up and other sites like Machu Picchu, and just to experience the culture.”
Hill explains that she is exposed to her Peruvian culture and speaks both Spanish and English.
“When we had parties at my grandma’s house, they’d play Peruvian music and we’d have Peruvian food. When my mom gets off work and she cooks, it’s always something Peruvian. I do speak Spanish. I think she taught us Spanish first. If she didn’t teach us Spanish first, she taught us both English and Spanish at the same time.”
Hill describes her and her younger brother’s experience being biracial. She mentioned that all her mother’s siblings married a Hispanic person, and her mother was the only one to marry a white person. Hill further described that as a child, she couldn’t grasp why her and her brother were treated differently among her cousins.
“As a child, you can’t comprehend why your family treats you differently just because your dad is a different race. My brother and I were always singled out by my cousins. We didn’t have a bond with them like they had with one another,” Hill said. “We were outsiders. They treated us like we were neighbors, not family. They’d say mean things, not racial things, but mean things because of our race. I never understood where it came from. That was really hard to go through growing up.”
Hill describes her parents proudly going around telling their friends her accomplishments. She says that her parents are hopeful that she will carry a successful life. Hill states that her mom was always worried about how Hill would be able to attend college. If it weren’t for Hill’s full ride, college would have not been an option for her.
“I’m making a difference in my household. Getting this opportunity has helped my family see that when things seem impossible, there’s always a way to go around it. I didn’t think I was going to be able to go to school. All my senior year, I was worried on how I was going to pay for it. This scholarship has also motivated my brother as well – he opens emails about colleges, I see him open letters he receives in the mail from colleges, and he reads college guidebooks. He takes it seriously. It makes me happy to know what I have done has not only impacted my parents, but my little brother as well, and he can be just as great or even greater than I am right now.”
Hill attends the University of North Texas and is majoring in Sociology and minoring in Criminal Justice, she will receive a bachelors and master degree in the span of five years.