You Don’t Look Like a Vasquez


I’m Alex and my last name is Vasquez. I’m White and Mexican. I have red hair and I’m six-foot-four—if I'm walking down the street people be like, Yo' that's a white boy—my Pops used to call me “the Polar Bear.”

I’m proud of who I am and what I am. I could stop right there and move along. But I’m not gonna because where is the fun in that?

I’m tall and I say wickedly funny (and often shitty) things and typically at the worst possible times, like that time I told a woman she had a nice box (in my defense she was holding a box), her boss was not amused, but I digress. 

The thing I get a lot of and have for my entire life, is: “You don’t look like a Mexican/Vasquez/Hispanic.” I don’t look like what I am is what people feel the need to tell me like I didn't already know. I used to feel like that was something I needed to explain to people like I had done something wrong.. Good sir or ma'am, I’m truly sorry that I do not look like what it was you were expecting me to look like given my name.

I’m assuming that when people hear a Latinx surname, they think, without thinking, that it is someone resembling this photo below…

Racial Bias

and that’s a form of bias. In and of itself, to me, it’s harmless; rather, I do not think that people who wonder about my looks and surname have ill intent in pointing out how I’m different from what they expect.

I’m just really tired of the feeling of having to explain myself. So from here on out I’m not going to because I don’t have to.

If someone does not fit inside a person’s frame of reference that’s their problem, it should never be yours.

Somebody on the internet

Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve had the name Vasquez. It’s my Mother’s maiden name. And if you’re curious why I use that instead of my Father’s surname just know that it’s none of your fucking business. =)

As a child, I was embarrassed by my name. I was embarrassed because teachers, when they would see me the first time, would ask me “Well, how did you get that name?” And I’m over there like ¯\_(ツ)/¯. Substitutes would ask that question without fail, too. Because I was asked about as often as I was, I felt insecure about my name. It wasn’t Smith or Stevens or something white, that would make sense. So I grew up being at odds with my identity.

Over the years, as my confidence grew and I grew into the rest of my body, the question didn’t bother me as much. I had an answer that I rolled with, something in the back pocket at the ready—I was coping with my inconvenient truth.

The thing is, it wasn’t just white people who made this observation, that I didn’t look like a Vasquez. I should note this isn’t a Dear White People post because I get this shit from all types. It was even people in my own family, it was also other Mexicans telling me that I wasn’t a Mexican.

I get called out for not being Mexican enough pretty much weekly. I had a date last weekend and my date casually rattled off “You don’t look like a Vasquez.” She’s a woke college educated white woman. She should know better. She didn’t. Someone I’ve gone running with once told me, “You’re not a real Mexican” after I related how my family made tamales, too. She asked, “Do you speak Spanish?” I replied, “No” and then she said, “Oh, then you’re not a real Mexican.” Even people in my own family would tell me, “You’re not a real Mexican. You’re not one of us.” As a kid, I already knew I was different from my family that I grew up with and I wanted to do anything to be more like them. One of my relatives would say, “Hey, Al, if you eat this Jalapeño you’ll be a Mexican. But you better not cry or bitch about it!” And so I began eating Jalapeños, a lot of them. It didn’t change the color of my skin or my hair, it didn’t help me with speaking Spanish either. It did, however, help my digestive system in the most painful ways possible. I enjoy Jalapeños these days on the premise that consuming them would make me more of a Mexican. I’m reminded of that fact often and it’s something I’ve had to put to rest.

While at a party, a guy overheard my name and said to me (can you guess what it is?): “Hey, you don’t look like a Vasquez.” I was drunk and way too high from eating edibles earlier in the evening, when I replied, “Hey, you’re right! Please go find me a Vasquez-looking person and when you do bring them back here so we can see what a Vasquez should look like!” The gentleman took a sip, gave a quick nod and then surveyed the room, looking for a Vasquez; surely there was someone who looked like a Vasquez in a room full of humanity. A few moments later, he returned his gaze to mine and offered, “I wasn’t supposed to do that, was I?” I smiled and said, “No, but it’s okay.” We both laughed and went on with life.

I am Mexican. I am white. I’m proud of who I am and what I am. I was raised by my Mexican family, I was raised on that food, and I was raised on a great many traditions of Mexican culture, and I am loved and accepted by my family. Even though I am unmistakably white presenting I do identify more with my Mexican heritage because it’s been a part of me from day one. I don’t loathe the white part of me, that side is a part of me, too, and I love who I am (and so do a lot of others).

I’m tired of telling people why I look like the kind of Vasquez that I look like. 

I’m tired of having people point out how white I look and how I don’t look like a Mexican at all. 

I’m tired of people asking me if I speak Spanish. I don’t. I wish I did so I knew when my Grandparents were talking shit about me or the rest of my family.

I’m tired of explaining to people why I don’t use my Father’s surname.

I’m tired of people telling me I’m not a real Mexican.

I’m tired of their questions because I don’t fit your frame of reference.

I’m tired of their shit. 

Their confusion is not my cross to bear. I’m not confused about who I am. It's not my job to help people be less confused about racial identities.

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Categorized as Musings

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