For Me, Soccer Represents the Identity Divide Mexican-Americans Feel

My story began on May 7, 1995 in Tijuana, Mexico at 5:30am, after a “miracle birth.” Yes, a miracle because I had the umbilical cord wrapped around my neck.

Most newborns get wrapped by blankets when they’re handed off to their parents. I was wrapped by a blanket and a soccer jersey. Soccer has been a huge part of my life. Which explains why October 10, 2015 was one of the best days of my life. I attended the Mexico – US soccer game at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. Mexico won in dramatic fashion and I left the stadium the happiest I had been in a long time.

Credit: Leticia Bustamante

But that wasn’t what was imprinted on my mind. I noticed something, something I felt provided an accurate, real-world example of what it’s like for many young Mexicans or Mexican-Americans in the United States that feel they have to choose between their cultures.

There were more than 95,000 people at the Rose Bowl. Hundreds of people wore jerseys that had stars and stripes on the right side and the Mexican crest right above the heart on the left side. These were people who couldn’t be forced to choose between their two cultures. Perhaps they don’t identify strongly with either one. Perhaps they didn’t want to be judged by family or friends for choosing one over the other.

For me, choosing who to root for was a no-brainer. I rooted for Mexico.

mexico game
Credit: Leticia Bustamante

As someone who is undocumented, I understand how hard it can be to choose. I know how it is to feel like no matter which side you choose, you aren’t welcome on either one: Ni de aquí, Ni de allá, like the famous India Maria film would say. For many Mexican-Americans, it is hard to choose a culture because they are born in the US, but raised with Mexican values.

I am not a citizen of the country I live in and I have not stepped in the country where I am a citizen since 2000. If I were to go back today, I would be recognized as a foreigner. When I think about that, I feel American because that’s how I would be seen in Mexico. Here, I feel the complete opposite sometimes, especially at school.

I am blessed enough to say that I attend my dream school, UCLA. But it’s at UCLA where I feel the most Mexican and the most foreign.

Credit: Leticia Bustamante

Mexicans make up a minority at UCLA. The majority are white Caucasians. It is here where I am reminded that I am not American because I am not blonde and blue-eyed and do not celebrate Thanksgiving or take family vacations because we cannot afford to take a week off of work. I don’t have parents who speak English or have college degrees. I have to explain why I cannot take out loans to study abroad, why I cannot vote or why I cannot join them for spring break in Cancun.

But nothing reminds me I’m a foreigner more than the fine box at the end of scholarship applications that says “I am a US citizen or legal resident.”

Nevertheless, I know I’m blessed to live in this great country and I am blessed to be Mexican. I love that I had the opportunity to grow up listening to Smokey Robinson and Michael Jackson and The Beatles one day and the next day listen to Chelo Silva, Selena, and of course, Vicente Fernandez.

Today I live a mile away from Bel-Air and Beverly Hills, but I am humbled by the memory of living in a small one bedroom apartment with twelve family members for the first two years.

Credit: Leticia Bustamante

I love that I grew up in the individualistic American society where I can become successful for me and my family.

Whether or not people regard me as American doesn’t even matter at the end of the day. Sometimes being undocumented doesn’t even matter. I’ve gotten this far. But one thing is for sure: I always carry that Mexican crest above my heart.

We should not be criticized for not being Mexican or American enough. We should be celebrated for being bicultural. We should be proud.

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California Is Poised To Become The First State To Offer Unemployment To Undocumented Workers

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California Is Poised To Become The First State To Offer Unemployment To Undocumented Workers

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Covid-19 has devastated families financially, especially Latinos. Latino households have experienced disproportionate levels of unemployment and health issues from Covid-19. California is helping undocumented people impacted by the virus.

California is going to help undocumented people struggling during the prolonged Covid-19 pandemic.

On Monday, the California legislature released a stimulus package to help Californians suffering during the pandemic. The “Major Components of Joint Economic Stimulus Plan” includes financially assisting undocumented people living in California. The plan further stipulates that the state would create a fund to assist those who will lose when the $600 unemployment benefits disappear and any other holes that might remain in the economic injuries of residents.

People are defending the use of tax dollars to help undocumented immigrants.

Undocumented people pay taxes. It is a narrative that anti-immigrant people push to further harm the undocumented community. Advocates have argued that the undocumented community should be protected during this pandemic as much as anyone else. This plan would likely do that.

“Our calls for prompt relief and a bit of human kindness have been heard and we hope soon not another family will go hungry or without essentials such as medication, bars of soap and other hygiene products, as the COVID-19 pandemic wreaks havoc in the Golden State,” Angelica Salas, executive director for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, said in a statement.

The virus is still spreading in the U.S. with California being one of the worst-hit states.

The state set a record on July 29 with 12,904 new Covid cases and 192 deaths. The state has been criticized for rushing its reopening strategy that led to a visible explosion of cases in mid-June. That is when California restrictions were lifted before meeting the health guideline standards for a safe reopening.

Latinos are the most impacted community. More Latino households have seen illness and sudden joblessness across the U.S. The federal government has left out undocumented people, who pay taxes, from assistance using tax dollars. California might be the first state to rectify that.

READ: Boston Red Sox Pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez Suffering From Covid-Related Heart Inflammation

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Nonprofit United We Dream Is Crowdsourcing Immigrant Recipes For A Fundraising Cookbook


Nonprofit United We Dream Is Crowdsourcing Immigrant Recipes For A Fundraising Cookbook

unitedwedream / Instagram

During the COVID-19 lockdowns, people have spent a lot of time in their kitchens cooking food to bring them comfort. One unique thing about the self-isolation is that people are having to figure out how to make things stretch or substitute some of your usual ingredients. United We Dream wants to make sure they can do something good with all of the recipes we have created.

United We Dream wants to use your recipes to create some good.

According to an Instagram post, United We Dream is putting together an undocumented cookbook. In the spirit of sharing recipes and cultural moments, United We Dream is asking for people to submit their recipes.

“At United We Dream we believe in the power of art and culture to change hearts and minds and June is the perfect time to tap into our cultural creativity,” reads the United We Dream website. “On Immigrant Heritage Month, we want to celebrate our community through a joyous art form that every household does: cooking!”

The money is going to be used to help the undocumented and immigrant communities.

Credit: unitedwedream / Instagram

According to Remezcla, 100 percent of profits from the book will go to the organization’s National UndocuFunds. United We Dream launched the National UndocuFund to deliver financial assistance to undocumented people struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is likely that the fund will need to do some extra lifting to help communities recovering from recent looting and rioting that has rocked the U.S. in recent days.

“We know that nothing brings people together quite like food,” reads the United We Dream website. “The dishes that immigrants create, no matter how simple or complex, allow people to experience cultures other than one’s own and all the joys and pleasures that come with it.”

The cookbook is already getting people excited.

Credit: unitedwedream / Instagram

There is something to be said about people getting creative in the kitchen during this pandemic. Outings are limited because we are all staying home to slow the spread. There are also people who are still not at work. That is why we have had to get creative to make our food last.

“Today, times are tough because of COVID-19, but many working-class and poor households are embracing their creativity to create meals that both sustain their households and bring a moment of peace and comfort,” reads the United We Dream website. “We want to create a cookbook that reflects our diverse community and inspires memories of joy, comfort and togetherness!”

United We Dream understands the power of food.

Food is a unifier. Everyone eats and food is one way to connect with your culture. It is also a wonderful way to share your culture with other people. Sharing your food and culture with people is a special way to let your friends into your life.

The organization is still taking recipe suggestions. If you want a chance to give more people a look into who you are and your culture through food, click here to share a recipe.

READ: Colorado Organization Raises Money To Offer Relief Checks To Undocumented People In The State

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