It can seem strange that I write about addiction and depression; as well as, writing and music and computers. The thing is that, to me, they’re all part of the same thing: My identity. This identity of mine is how I interact with myself and with the world around me. As I was growing up and trying to figure out my place in this world, my identity was challenged because I am both Chicano and American.
I didn’t choose either, though some would argue that continuing to identify my ethnicity as “Chicano” IS a choice. But I disagree. My family was displaced from their familial lands through the power of American law. Though I was born here when New Mexico was long a state, my family was only two generations removed from being Mexican citizens. Even in spite of being born as an American citizen, Spanish was still my first language. My dark skin almost looks like I emerged from the land here intact. So, I cannot identity myself in any other way but as a Chicano.
Now that I’m a grown man, I am an active participant in the American process of life. That is, I work a wage-earning job through which I’m able to support myself and pay my fair share of taxes. But, if it wasn’t for writing and music and computers, I wouldn’t have the tools necessary to be an active participant. All too often, depression and addiction are the direct results of not having the necessary tools to be an active member of this American society. Being Chicano isn’t something that should ever be shameful. Yet, my brothers and sisters all too often think that being Chicano means remaining on the periphery of society, different and unequal.
However, I’m a living and functioning example of a Chicano who remains true to his cultural identity, yet participates in the American process. There doesn’t have to be a trade-off, in spite of the many negative messages people of color receive in this world. For example, all too often Chicano/Latino/Hispano people are depicted as maids or cooks or other menial laborers in TV and movies. When we do have control of our representations, we tend to extend the myth that Chicanos are a bunch of pachucos who drive low-riders and wear wife beaters. While low-riders are an important part of Chicano culture, not all Chicanos drive them. I’ve always been a Chicano and I’ve never even driven one.
So, I write about all the things that make me who I am as a way to reinforce to myself that I am ok. We all are ok, really. I think it all comes down to our own beliefs about own place in the world and all those things that make us who we are. If being a Chicano who drives a low-rider and wear s a wife beater is empowering, then so be it. But, if it means that society has the right to treat Chicanos differently or as something less than others, then it’ll never be ok to me. I am Chicano. And I am a software developer. And I am a writer. And I am a musician. Really, I’m human, just like we all are. So, I will always write about the things that make me human.