Irish / English | Mexican
I like to think of myself as Anglo-Latina, but I’ll often just say I’m mixed-race because I like the ambiguity of the term, it says everything and nothing about me. I am an atheist and the nuances of my sexuality remain an open question. My Mum grew up in London, but her birth mother is Irish, and her adoptive parents were English. My Dad is Mexican and grew up in Mexico City. They met on a Mexican island called Cozumel in the Caribbean. However, my Mum left after a few years to work in the Maldives, but my Dad very romantically followed her and after a year they came back to Cozumel, where I was born.
I guess I spent most of my early life feeling Mexican, as my only link to the UK was my mum and our occasional trips to visit our family. My Dad had his job cut out for him, as we grew up in Mexico and learnt about that side of our heritage through our daily experiences. However, my Mum made a conscious effort to remind us of our British heritage as well. She would only speak to us in English and insisted that we watched films in English as well (which backfired, because as children we only wanted to speak Spanish, like all our friends did, and thus refused to speak English). Christmas was also an opportunity to learn about our British heritage, as my mum made mince pies and read us British Christmas stories, and sometimes we even travelled to the UK to spend Christmas with our cousins. For a long time, I associated Britain mostly with Christmas.
Being mixed-race has sometimes made me feel like I exist in a no man’s land. Growing up in Mexico, I was sometimes told I looked too White to be Mexican. Now that I live in the UK, most people see me as a ‘foreigner’. It’s unpleasant to have your identity rejected by both of the countries you consider home. This troubled me at times, but I have come to realise that my ethnic fluidity is one of my best traits. In a world that has recently become overwhelmed with nationalist agendas, I think its important for people to reconsider what really defines them, and question whether a political border is in fact an appropriate parameter. So, I guess my biggest challenge around my identity has also been my most positive experience being mixed race, because by questioning my nationality I have become more open to seeing the entire world as my country.
Growing up in Mexico accustomed my taste buds to fresher, perhaps more exotic food than what is served at hall, so I mostly don’t eat there. However, my tastes have changed, and there’s some Mexican junk food that I used to love and no longer like – products that probably don’t meet health and safety regulations in the UK. I also enjoy reggaeton music now more than ever, greatly out of nostalgia, and because it’s the perfect party music (even if British clubs don’t agree with me). I consider Spanglish my native tongue, as I’ve always spoken to my parents and my brother with a mix of Spanish and English. I think this early exposure and fusion may have made me more curious about foreign languages. I was fascinated by Mandarin as a young teen, and thus decided to go on an exchange year to China. There, I made several Italian friends from whom I picked up some Italian, which I then studied at A level. I also dabbled a bit into French and German, although I didn’t get very far. Currently I hope to learn some Korean, as my boyfriend and my best friend at college are Korean. I love languages because they are a powerful tool for understanding cultures, as they shape our understanding of abstract concepts and can reflect the values of a nation or ethnic group.
Put plainly, I knew before applying to Oxford that it would be a mostly White and quite an affluent demographic. However, I didn’t consider this something that would hurt my chances of a successful application. I trusted that they would, or wouldn’t, give me a place based on merit. I think that the severe lack of representation of minority ethnic groups in elite universities is a problem that begins long before our university years. I was lucky enough to go to a good state school, have a Mother that moved to the UK for my brother and I to continue our studies and, to a certain extent, to be in the right place at the right time. I definitely wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t a British national (for obvious economic reasons) so I think that’s the only way in which my heritage may have influenced my decision to attend, although I can’t deny that I am also proud to be able to represent the Latino community.
I haven’t experienced any blatant or casual racism so far in my first two terms here and, particularly at my college, everyone is very friendly and open. I now have several friends from many different backgrounds (which I love) despite minorities being relatively scarce. However, in my own experience, I feel like perhaps ethnicity is not the main factor for difference, but rather internationality. I think in some occasions international students can find it hard to integrate, particularly when there’s a language barrier. In this case, I think the Oxford student body and Oxford as an institution could try harder to help everyone feel at home.
When I lived in Mexico, for the most part I just felt Mexican. Coming to the UK, however, it’s easy to see that I didn’t grow up here. My ‘mid-Atlantic’ accent is a dead giveaway, and my ‘touchy-feely’ disposition could at first be misleading for my friends. This and the existence of societies like Mexican, International and Mixed Heritage make my difference more evident to others and myself. I think Latinos are greatly under-represented at Oxford. Even when we speak about minorities, we speak of BAME, which includes Latinos but has an obvious focus on Black and Asian groups. I must admit this makes me feel a bit excluded even among other minority groups, although I understand that this is strictly because they are the larger minority groups with a longer history in the country. Meeting other Mexicans at Oxford through the Oxford Mexican Society definitely made me feel like I had found a piece of home in Oxford, although I was disappointed to not meet any undergraduates. However, the Mixed Heritage Society and the International Society are full of them, and although I don’t share my Mexican nationality with any of the members, what we do share are our differences, which gives me a powerful sense of community.
If I had the opportunity to be reborn I would like to be even more mixed. Something really unexpected like Danish/Japanese/Moroccan, because I think that the more diverse your background is, the more enriched your life becomes. There are more languages you can learn from your family and community, more cultural traditions you can call your own, more culinary backgrounds and family recipes with which to enrich your daily diet and more family members around the world to visit.
In the context of the University of Oxford, we hope our names; faces and stories will emphasise that there is a place for everyone at Oxford. According to last year’s admissions data, 700 Oxford undergraduates identify as mixed. In 2016, BAME students accounted for 15.9% of the undergraduate intake. Oxford is diversifying, albeit slowly. We hope to empower mixed heritage students at Oxford and foster a community where they can safely share their own opinions, experiences and stories.