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February 28, 2021

My life as a White Hispanic: Prejudice comes from all sides

My name is Kimberly Helminski Keller, and I am a Latina.

My Polish surname hides the reality that the other half of my DNA is Puerto Rican, a genetic mix of Spanish, African and Taino Indian. As a child, I described my multi-racial heritage as  “Puertolack,” a hybrid of Puerto Rican and Polack.

We lived in Buffalo, New York in a neighborhood where most families were Polish, Italian or a combination of both. My father’s family had been in Buffalo for generations. They were among the original Poles who came to the U.S. in hopes of making a good living working on the railroad. My father met my mother while he stationed at an Army base in New Jersey. Her family came to the mainland in 1929 to escape Puerto Rico’s poverty. She was a definite contrast to the girls back home with her tan skin, dark brown eyes and dark, curly hair.

My father was pale and Polish; my mother was beautiful and Latina.
My father was pale and Polish; my mother was beautiful and Latina.

Childhood can be confusing when you’re the only white kid in a tan family

Life in Buffalo was confusing to me. When I was with my dad, no one looked twice at me. I was just another little brown-eyed girl with golden hair. However, the looks changed when my mother and brother were around. My mother was an absolute Latina beauty, and my brother inherited her tan skin and curls. They got stares from strangers. Some of our neighbors looked down their noses at them. A few parents told their children not to play at the “dirty spic” house. My own Polish grandparents, while never overtly prejudiced, were emotionally distant with us, but they lavished attention on our literal fair-haired cousin. I was too young to understand what was happening, but all the signs told my young mind that there was something wrong with me and the people I loved most.

I found solace and identity with my mother’s family, especially after my parents’ divorce. My grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins loved us unconditionally. You couldn’t enter a room without my grandmother or aunts plastering your face with kisses. My cousins would tease me about being the whitest kid in the family and told me chocolate milk would make my skin turn brown. I drank a lot of it because I desperately wanted to be like them. Both my grandmother and mother cooked amazing Puerto Rican foods such as arroz con gandules (rice and beans), papas rejellenas (stuffed potatoes) and fried amarillos (ripe plantains). I was exposed to great Latino music and dancing, but woefully, my dance skills were better suited for Polish polkas. My grandmother rarely spoke Spanish in the house, but I picked up quite a few colorful words when she’d get angry with my uncles. My only sadness came from when we were around other Puerto Ricans in the community. People stared at me when I was outside. I knew enough Spanish to understand the muffled conversations about “the white girl.” They laughed when I called my grandmother, “Abuela.”

Blessings and challenges as an adult

My life today as a multi-racial adult has its blessings and its challenges. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to be a part of two very different cultures. Thanks to my mixed genes, my skin doesn’t show age as it does on my Caucasian friends. My hair is somewhat manageable during the summer heat; whereas, my mom, aunts and cousins rely on various straighteners to tone down frizz. I also have the ability to see life from both a white and Latina perspective.

Still, society wants to put me in an easily definable box based on the color of my skin. People get angry when I make my own box. I identify myself as Latina because my greatest influences in life came from that part of my heritage.

Seeing only the color of my skin

While in college, I tried to participate in a discussion about growing up in a multi-racial family. A group of girls were sitting in the dorm’s common area and talking about how it was to have parents of different races and ethnicities. I introduced myself to the lead girl and told her that I was Latina and white.

“Kim Helminski? That’s not Latina! That’s the whitest name I’ve ever heard,” she said. “You’re a white girl. You don’t belong here.”

I looked around the room. No one said a word.

“I am Puerto Rican,” I said again. “My dad was Polish, and my mom’s family came directly from the island.”

The girl straightened up and looked at me. “You’re not Puerto Rican. You’re white.”

I was ready to walk away, but I asked one more question, “How do you think a Puerto Rican should be?”

The other girls began to talk. Dark skin. Curly hair. Speak Spanish. Go to a barrio school. Move your hips. Be discriminated against.

Based on their erroneous criteria, I could not be in the discussion. I missed five of their six identifiers; however, they were dreadfully wrong about my discrimination experience. I’ve faced it on both sides, and I was facing it from them.

When multi-racial leads to multi-rejection

Being multi-racial means embracing all sides of your heritage, but unfortunately, the sides don’t always embrace you back. When I look “white,” I can blend in with the white community. But if I allow myself to tan in the summer, I’m not as welcome. I can speak Spanish, cook traditional foods and talk about shared cultural experiences, but other Latinos often acknowledge me with a patronizing grin.

[Tweet “Being multi-racial means embracing all of your heritage, but you’re not always embraced back.”]

I’ve met a few other people who are multi-racial. Most live their lives in the culture that best matches their physical features. It’s easier to blend in than to stand out. I straddle the fence. I want to be part of both cultures, but I know that in reality, I am a culture unto myself. My self-culture isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it’s the best illustration of how the American melting pot should work.

As a mother, I want my children to appreciate their multi-racial heritage. My daughter has red hair, freckles and porcelain skin. My son has blonde hair and olive skin. The world does not see the diversity that runs through their veins. They see two very white kids.  When my children were preschoolers, we took a trip to the local Mexican bakery with my mother. They were excited about all the pastries and began to chant, “Abuela! Abuela!” whenever they saw something that looked especially delicious. All eyes turned to them, and the snickering and murmuring began. My mother got angry. “These are my grandchildren,” she sternly said. She made a quick purchase, and we left the store.

Multi-racial: It’s trendy, controversial and really difficult to describe

[youtube=]Recent headlines make being multi-racial trendy – and controversial.  Several public figures have been more open about their diverse heritage: Apple CEO Steve Jobs (German and Syrian), President Obama (Mixed European and Kenyan) and Senator Ted Cruz (Cuban, Irish and Italian) are just a few examples. Advertisers are also being more open. Breakfast favorite Cheerios recently got a barrage of complaints over a commercial featuring a multi-racial family; however, according to figures from the 2010 census, the ad reflects reality for more than 9 million mixed race Americans.

Latino (or Hispanic) does not meet the technical definition of a race and is viewed only as an ethnic group. Currently the U.S. Census only recognizes only white, black, American Indian or Alaskan Native, and Asian as “races.” Hispanics and other minority communities such as North Africans, Middle Easterners and Arabs are viewed as ethnic groups and have to identify with one of the recognized races. The system forces the creation of ridiculous and offensive categories such as “white Hispanic.”

What racial/ethnic identity  matters most?

The term “white Hispanic” can certainly be used to describe me, although many, like the girls from my old dorm, would argue that I don’t meet the criteria for Hispanic ethnicity. If you look at the big picture, neither “white” nor “Hispanic” really define my true identity.

My Polish and Puerto Rican ancestors came here for a better life, but endured poverty, dismal education, crime and discrimination from other groups. They put up with slurs such as “polack” and “spic” while they worked to feed their families. However, they never wavered and strived to make sure things were better for the next generation.

Because of them, I have the identity they wanted when they arrive on our shores – I am an American.


123 Comments on My life as a White Hispanic: Prejudice comes from all sides

  1. Hello-
    I was born and raised in Puerto Rico. My mother is Puerto Rican and my father is both Puerto Rican and Cuban. The majority of my family is white, I’m white (brown hair, hazel eyes). When I lived there, I never questioned my identity and was happy. My family and I moved to a state in the US (rather not specify the state), at first I thought it was funny when people were surprised. But after nearly 6 years of living in the US, I then noticed that people were shocked when I would tell them I am Latina because I am white. Other people simply think I’m lying or they tell me I’m not Hispanic if I’m white. I recently had a fight with my friend because she told me “you’re not white because you’re Puerto Rican”. I feel like I don’t even know myself anymore.

  2. I just stumbled upon this article today (10/13/2019) and it is something that I can relate to. I’m 1/4th Puerto Rican,but due to the absence of my Puerto Rican grandfather throughout most of my life, I was not exposed to Spanish while I grew up. (Sometimes I jokingly call myself a Sorta Rican)
    My skin is white, and I fit in well in the MidWest where I was raised. A very few times people thought I was part Asian because of my somewhat almond-shaped eyes. Most of the time though, I’m just seen as another American white dude; which culturally, I am. But there is a longing in me. There’s a part of me which I cannot express. I wish I could speak Spanish so I could legitimize my heritage to myself. But I’m so far removed from it. The only Puerto Rican in me is that which is carried in my blood. I too had a similar experience at college. There was a Hispanic heritage club, filled mostly with Mexican and and South American students. To their surprise I told them I was partially Puerto Rican. I told them that my Grandfather came off the island with his Mom and Dad during the 1970’s. They moved to Ohio in the search for better jobs. Ultimately though, I didn’t join the club because I can’t speak Spanish. The lack of it makes me feel illegitimate and like a fraud amongst actual spanish speakers. Also, my white skin has often lead to questions about the legitimacy of my ancestral claims amongst classmates. I’ve been told several times that, becuase I’m white, I’ve never felt discrimination and I’m not really Hispanic as a result. Again, culturally I’m not Hispanic. That’s true. I’m a midwestern American with a Puerto Rican Grandfather. I’ve got aunts and uncles on the island which I still haven’t met, but I digress.

    Interestingly, I’ve never felt these kind of feelings when it comes to my Paternal heritage. Perhaps, it’s becuase that side of my family is mired too much in obscurity about its own roots. Different relatives claim we’re descended from Irish, Scots, or Welsh with a dash of American Indian (the tribe of which will probably never be known or verified). I guess I get hung up on the Puerto Rican side, because it’s the only part of my heritage that I’m sure of, even though I’m far removed from it.

    Anyway, thanks again for sharing your story.

    • Thank you for sharing your story with me. It’s never too late to explore and embrace your heritage. Go to Puerto Rico for a visit! The tourist spots are nice and most people speak English in these areas. I traveled around the “real Puerto Rico” to see where my grandparents came from. (My Spanish was good enough to read road signs and have basic conversations.) It humbled me to realize how much they struggled and sacrificed for a better future, and now my cousins and I have opportunities they never dreamed were possible.

  3. It was so great to read this article and to know someone else feels the same way I do. My mother is Colombian, my dad American (from German ancestry), but I look just like him, blonde hair, blue eyes, and fair skin that, unfortunately, turns bright red in the sun. The difficult part for me is that I’ve lived with him and my stepmom for over 12 years and had minimal contact with my Colombian mother, so I hardly know anything about my heritage. For the majority of my life I was happy just passing as simply white, but now that I’m a older, I’ve realized that I don’t need to fit into the box people place me in and that it’s okay to look different than what people expect from a typical Latina. Right now, I’m just trying to learn Spanish and hopefully get a chance to visit Colombia and my family there, but it’s been weird, because although my parents (dad and stepmom) have never said anything explicitly against me not exploring my heritage, I just feel like they would rather I just take the easy road and just pass as white for my whole life. Don’t get me wrong, they’ve been absolutely fantastic and they love me to death and would support me no matter what, it’s just, there’s this almost awkwardness that comes when I start talking about Colombia and stuff like that.

    I guess my struggle is, can I even call myself Latina if I grew up with my white parents, know nothing about the culture (granted, I’ve taken it upon myself to learn, but still), can only speak broken Spanish (also, learning but it tAKES SO MUCH TIME TO REACH FLUENCY), and look about as gringa as you can get? Is that even fair to the “real” Latinos, who have grown up with the culture, and everything that goes along with it, if I waltz in and say, “Hey, everyone, I’m Latina too!” I don’t know. I just needed a place to vent since I have no one else to say all of this to.

  4. Dear Kim,

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing this article! I am a 41 year old Guatemalan/American. My father emigrated here in 1968 to escape the civil war in Guatemala and met my mother in Chicago, who is from Northern Wisconsin and is of Scandinavian descent. I was raised to appreciate both sides of my bloodline but even at an early age was very aware and proud of my Hispanic heritage. I learned to speak the language from my father and now am fine tuning it with help from my wife, who is from Colombia. I too have seen the ugly side of people from both groups who didn’t want to accept my self identification as Hispanic, even to this day. I’ve been told by some of my “from Mexico” friends that I am not Latino or Hispanic. Another white friend recently told me I am “kind of ” Latino. I consider myself both white and Latino regardless of what others try to tell me. Many people don’t realize how belittling it is to say these things, especially when you’ve grown up being called names that I don’t want to repeat here.

    My wife is very understanding on my views and has in the past defended me when others aren’t so open-minded. She is one of few who readily accept me as a Latino, with my green eyes and not-so-tan Wisconsin complexion. Lately, I’ve been looking for any online groups for discussions and support but haven’t had any luck. My hope is that many more read your article and start to have this important discussion with friends and family.

    P.S. I am also a Police Officer and enjoyed your article titled, “I told my son not to be a Police Officer”.

    • Thank you so much for sharing your story. I have been amazed to find out how many of us are out there, and we all wrestle with the same things. There are no easy answers, but if anyone is going to start honest discussions about ethnicity, it needs to start with people who straddle the fence between two worlds.

      I’m also very happy you enjoyed my article about my son’s desire to be a police officer. He’s still intent on being one because God gifted him with the heart of a warrior shepherd.

  5. I live in the south and since the November 2016 presidential election people in this area have become more emboldened with racial jokes & comments. Yesterday a co-worker complained to me how sad it was that white people were having children at a much slower rate than black and Hispanic Americans. She believed this was going to ruin our country. I looked right at her and said “You know I’m Hispanic, right?”

    She laughed and indignantly snorted “Well you sure look white to me!”

    You see, my dad is a fair haired, blue-eyed Puerto Rican whose immigrant parents emphasized only speaking English in his home. My mother is a southern white, mostly of Scottish decent. I have brown hair and blue eyes. My skin is a fair olive tone, and unless I have a dramatic tan I definitely look white.

    It upsets to feel like I can’t speak out against these racist comments. I feel like people don’t take my feelings seriously because I don’t look like a minority and my family culture is more southern than Puerto Rican (homemade buttermilk biscuits and grits instead of beans and rice). I struggle with looking white and having white people treat me as “one of them” by making racist jokes and comments, and if I mention my heritage I get looks of disbelief and I’m laughed at.

    People think it’s a joke that I would consider myself anything but white since I don’t speak Spanish or cook ethnic food. I’ve even been told that calling myself Hispanic is attention seeking and I’m looking to benefit in some way by calling myself a minority.

    I’m glad I found your article. It provides some comfort to know I’m not the only one who feels racially invalidated because of my appearance. I’m proud of the heritage from both sides of my family, I just wish I didn’t feel so ambiguous in society.

  6. Hi! I just found this article and it meant a lot for me to read it. I needed to read something like this, I am Nicaraguan on my mothers side, and German on my fathers. White, short and thin, brown hair and brown eyes. Growing up I was always told I was a latina or “oh no your white”. My mom raised my older brother and I “American” but we grew up in a spanish speaking household despite the fact neither my brother nor I can speak it fluently even now.

    Growing up I had issues trying to figure out where I fit in, either with my moms side or my dad’s. When we moved to Florida, my identity issues just grew worse. Being in Miami people just assumed I was Cuban because I’m white with a German last name. In my teens, friends and acquaintances would always tell me “Your Nicaraguan 100%” or your not a Latina just because you don’t speak any Spanish and only half.

    My family would always just smile when I would have issues defining who I was or not know how to answer any questions. My former college roommate who happens to be a very close friend now once said that “Your Not Hispanic Enough” just because I don’t listen to any Spanish music or like or cook with Goya or Latin food. To this day I still have issues with being just me and learning to embrace my Nicaraguan background as well as still learning about my German-American heritage that I can trace back to the 30’s and 40’s Upstate NY when my great-grandparents came to the US to flee what would become Nazi Germany. My older brother likes to just say he is Nica fully but I choose to say I am both for my own sanity.

    • Thank you so much for sharing your story. I completely understand where you’re coming from. My younger brother has the Latino look; consequently, he “passes” much more easily than I do. It’s quite entertaining when my mom and I go to the Latin market together; she doesn’t speak a word of Spanish and relies on me to speak for her.

      • My mother is polish and my dad afro puerto Rican born on the island….I have a very polish last name.
        Sometimes I feel rejected by both sides…
        I’m not puerto Rican enough because i don’t speak spanish and I’m not white enough because I look puerto Rican… Glad I’m not the only one. But I guess i do feel more puerto Rican. And mostly identify as bori.

  7. I stumbled across this article and it’s probably the best thing that could’ve happened to me. I’m a college student who’s half Puerto Rican and a quarter Polish and a quarter Irish. I also look like I’m white. My mom was the first in the family to not be born on the island, but she’s white as well; as is my grandmother and as was my great grandmother. I don’t speak Spanish fluently, but I can piece together bits of conversation. I live with a Mexican roommate and I understood when she told her mother over the phone that she hated living with a white girl. My whole life I’ve had to deal with people telling that I’m ‘not Puerto Rican enough’ or that I ‘can’t be Latina because’ I’m ‘too white’. Discovering this article makes me feel a lot better about what I’ve gone through and it makes me feel as thought my identity is valid. So thank you.

    • HI Alex,

      Thank you for sharing your story. I am so happy to hear my article helped you; there’s a lot of us out there that don’t fit in the stereotypical boxes, but that doesn’t negate who we are as people.

  8. I loved this article very much! I am half Italian half Puerto Rican (green eyes, white skin) but I’ve been labeled anything and everything else except what I am. Only twice in my life strangers knew straight up what I was. It gets depressing having to explain yourself and once you do that then you get these doubtful stares as if the person is telling you “Uh huh, yeah right. Keep on lying. I know you are white or … blah blah blah”

    When I am with Italians I don’t quite fit in because they think I’m Middle Eastern. When I’m with Puerto Ricans I somewhat fit in but they treat me like I’m Asian or white. And when I hang out with my Mexican friends, I’m the gringa not Latina and I’m just very educated because I can speak Spanish :|. I never fitted in anywhere and this is why I don’t have friends. I used to think being mixed race was so beautiful, and it is, until people bring their judgments and beat you down.

    Every day feels like a struggle trying to be happy with who you are. Now when people ask me “what I am” I just tell them “whatever you want me to be” because the truth is they won’t believe me or just laugh at me when I tell them the truth. And honestly, I don’t feel like wasting more energy on something others are ignorant about.

    So to all of you out there who are mixed ethnicities, LOVE IT! Even though the struggles can be hard, but at the end of the day you know who you truly are!

    • I am so glad you could relate to this piece, but I am so sorry to learn about the judgment you’ve faced. It’s not fair, but please know that you are beautiful and wonderful JUST AS YOU ARE.

  9. Although I am not of mixed ancestry, I can relate to an extent to what you have faced as far as being pushed out of a group based on your looks or lack thereof the so called “proper looks” to fit within a particular group. I was born into a 100% Italian family with immigrants on both sides. I’m 4th generation. I am southern Italian decent. The kicker, I’m blonde with blue eyes and in the winter, have a light complexion. My entire life, I have gotten from strangers that I must not possibly be Italian at all and even people would say I’m German or Irish or Russian. And I actually had the opposite with my name. My name is very Italian, first and last and middle. People who heard or read my name would know it was italian but then see me and be like oh, I thought you were Italian. Guess not. Um no you are right. I am. And the conversation would go really? You are not. Well take a DNA sample. I’m Mediterranean. My curls and thick hair alone should have been a dead giveaway but people are ignorant. My family members would just say all the time how white and pale I was and how it must be nice to be so fair and every girl wishes they looked like me and whatever other stereotypical bull. Of course my cousins are darker than me. Even mys sister, who also shares my blonde hair and blue eyes, has olive skin so people know she is Italian but for some reason not me. And it’s like my white friends would always say oh no you look Italian. You can’t be Irish. So I feel which group can I even embrace if any? Culture is important and a sense of belonging is too. I am actually nervous to tell people I’m Italian when they ask what origin my name is. Because I know the response is, as it has been since childhood, well you don’t “look” Italian. It’s probably miniscule in retrospect but it’s the only culture I know and only ethnicity I have. So it hurts when people tell me that. So I don’t even bother anymore explaining myself. I lie sometimes and say I have 60% Norwegian ancestry. Just to appease people. But people are ignorant. And I’m sorry you faced such discrimination your entire life. I know several people who are Puerto Rican and ligter than myself. I have a family friend who is 100% Puerto Rican and has blue eyes and fair skin. But for me, I never judge a book by its cover as I know what it’s like to be judged. I never felt Italian regardless of the food and celebrations. When I look in the mirror, I don’t see that because everyone tells me that I don’t favor that. And it’s hard as I said because I’m 100% as far as I know. So I have no fall backs. And I worry for my children as my fiance is Jamaican and dark skinned. I worry if they look too much like either side people will reject them on both ends. If they are light like me, people will try to tell them they aren’t black and certainly if they are so dark people will tell them they are not white or even Italian at that. It’s a sad world we live in at times but in the end, we are all mixed and are all beautiful. And genes work in ways most people don’t understand. It isn’t that odd you are light and favor a European and it is certainly not odd that I am a blonde, blue eyed southern Italian descended individual!

    • Thank you for sharing your story, Rina. I’m hoping that your children’s generation will be much more accepting than ours was about judging people solely on their looks. Your kids are going to be AWESOME, and the world needs them. 🙂

  10. I’m nineteen-years-old and My mother is from Mexico and my father is from Virginia, U.S.A.
    I grew up living in a very white-suburban town but we frequently visited families on both sides. I have two brothers and two half sisters. My older brothers has olive skin, hazel eyes, and black hair. My younger brother has blonde hair and brown eyes and very fair skin while I being the middle son have green eyes, dirty blonde hair and very fair skin as well. My older half sisters are 100% Mexican and have typical Mexican physical features.

    Living as what my family has described as being a “White-Xican” it really has been both fun, interesting and at the same time complicated and frustrating. my mother didn’t teach us Spanish as English was the only spoken language in our house. my older half sisters spoke fluent Spanish being 100 percent Mexican and older. we grew up eating Mexican food, and living in a home going to Mexican parties, dancing to Mexican music and having a family with Mexican traditions. we lived as Mexicans but we only knew a handful of Spanish words.

    There have been three great challenges in my life as a result of my heritage. First is the language barrier. I was never taught Spanish by my mother so The Spanish I do know I picked up through television and simple phrases. I feel like It would let me grow and learn about my culture if I could speak Spanish. i am currently learning Spanish but It’s not easy as any language being learned as an adult.

    The second challenge has been with my physical appearance. I have constantly been mistaken for Polish throughout my life. I have what people describe as Eastern European Features and so when I tell people I am half Mexican It’s almost never taken serious.

    I feel as though me and My mother will never speak from each other’s heart because I can’t communicate to her from the language of her heart. it’s a totally different emotional state when you speak through your mother tongue.

    And then there is the other side. I was always teased by my family with Mexican roots for being a “Guerro” and “Gringo”. Having light skin is seen as being stuck up and people assume you have more and expect more materially from other people. And it’s been the reason I was isolated at parties from the other kids with darker skin.

    And lastly The third challenge has been identifying my race. I consider myself Bi-Racial. I am never ashamed to identify as half Mexican, a people with a unique and very inspiring story full of ambition, tragedy and obstacles. But sometimes I feel too Mexican to be white and too white to be Mexican. I have my own unique perspective and culture and I don’t want to take for granted both sides because they have made me the Individual I am today. I guess I will continue to be a “White-Xican” XD

  11. Im half spanish from spain which is located in Europe and half latin America from Argentina located in south America.. i totally look white and i have hazel eyes blonde hair nobody knows where i come from when i speak spanish people always look at me weird like a stranger that is lots anyways i still love my self you know be proud of who you are…..

  12. Kim, you said that you have some African in you, from your mother’s Puerto Rican heritage? I know that not all Africans are Black, but does your mother have any Black blood, as far as you know?

    My Mom is Swedish-Irish with blonde hair and blue eyes, and my Dad is Japanese-American. I have one older brother, who looks just like me, but he is taller and thinner: We both look (I think) very Japanese, although many others say that they can tell that we have European in us.

    Now, I also have two younger sisters. One has copper brown hair, showing more European. But my younger younger sister (the youngest of the four of us) has LIGHT brown hair and HAZEL eyes! She’s five years younger than me, so when we were together, people would think we were boyfriend-girlfriend!

    One advantage, when being in a Japanese environment: We could have any woman (for my brother and I) that we wanted. And my sisters, especially the one with light brown hair and hazel eyes, they could date any guy they wanted!

    • Hi Rick,

      European and Japanese? You’re just as ethnically confused as I am. 🙂

      I’ve been playing with the idea of pinpointing the exact genetics with one of those ancestry DNA tests, but I’m a bit leery of having my DNA indexed. Too many Michael Crichton books and CSI episodes. Based on genealogy records, historical sources, and my maternal family’s physical and medical characteristics, we’ve definitely got all the bloodlines represented. My next job is to find out how much.

  13. I’m half Puerto Rican and half Czech. Being white skinned I don’t feel like I fit in at all with a Hispanic environment, and that’s discouraging when you mostly identify with Puerto Rican heritage.

    Puerto Rico Slavs unite.

  14. The girl from next door is half Colombian and half Hungarian, but I always thought she was full white. Her father abandoned her and her mother just when she was in preschool, so I’ve never met the father. She said that he has mainly Spanish and some Native American ancestors, while her mother is full European so “technically” she must be 80-85% White and 15-20% Native. That’s why her friends never suspected she had some non-white backgrounds and always been seen as another white person.

  15. Very interesting read. Being biracial makes you question your ethnic identity a lot.. But i still considered myself 110% Latino despite being half European (Hispanic). Spain is a Spanish speaking country but Spanish culture is much different than Latino culture. Another issue i have is that my Mom who is very Latina behaves like a white woman. a lot of fair skinned Latinas like my mother think they can get a white pass but at the end of the day you’re Latino. My brother also seems to think that too despite having a “cara de indio” like my mother says. Me on the other hand… I am very dark. Some people even think i am Arabic. This causes problems in the house because i don’t have that type of Latino bond with brother since he is essentially white washed. He’s also neglects his Latino background alot, and claims hes “Hispanic” when he has no relation to his Spanish side (Our father left very young). Although I formed a real brotherhood with some friends in Nicaragua, that is something only Latinos can do. They are much more enjoyable than my own brother. He needs a wake up call.

  16. I am half Italian and half Puerto Rican so I can identify with your story. What always bothered me was stereo types of the way a Puerto Rican should act and look. I’ve actually been to Puerto Rico Twice and seen blonde hair and red hair Puerto Ricans with blue eyes to dark skin with kinky hair, dark brown eyes and everything in between. The sad part is that the Puerto Ricans who were born in the sates actually feed into this stereotype as well. I love both cultures and I never let anyone put me in a box, I just simply educate and correct them 🙂

  17. Hmm sounds more the struggle of being multiracial. Latina/latino is nothing more than an ethnic background and not a category of race, as much as some groups of people like to think it is. Racially, you’re already a mix, especially if your mother was already a mestizo.

    Ethnically, it sounds like you had more in common with Puerto Rican culture than you did Polish. That would make you latina, regardless of how you appeared. Those idiots claiming you aren’t “latina” clearly haven’t traveled to Latin America. There are a lot of white people there, especially in the Southern Cone. A large Asian population also inhabits Peru and Brazil, but does that not make them ‘latino’ because of how they look? Of course not. They have Spanish names, interact with the community, know everything there is to know about the country, and practice cultural traditions from their country.

    However, you should probably identify yourself as Latina as long as you’re in the US. I don’t know about Puerto Rico, but we in South America don’t exactly use that term and doing so would immediately make you a foreigner (gringa) in our eyes.

    Great article by the way.

    • It is beautiful.

      It really annoys me when people assume that to be Hispanic you have to have dark skin or behave the way those girls told the writer a Hispanic person should be. They put themselves in a stereotype created by other races.

      Personally all this race thing is BS. We are human beings, we reproduce, we mix. Good thing I never met those girls that excluded her for being white. I would have told them- in Spanish- what an embarrassment they were to Latinos everywhere, because they better than anyone should KNOW that we’re the most diverse people on earth and that you can’t put Hispanic in a box and say that if you don’t fit you don’t belong. Hispanic is not even a race, it’s a cultural thing. Those girls are as guilty of discrimination as the people who discriminate against them, even worse because they discriminate against their own, people who share their culture.

      I have brown hair and eyes, but I’m so white my mom had to drag me to the beach all the time so I would “tan and look healthy instead of like a vampire.” My brothers and sisters go from pretty white to black and other than “You’re siblings? Who would’ve thought?” the first time, after which it was just accepted, maybe because it’s pretty damn common around here. So if I’m seen in public holding my black little cousin or nephew no one is going to look at me weird or think I kidnapped them.

    • I’m sorry but being hispanic is not being multiracial. Hispanic is just a term created here in the U.S so the government would have something to categorize us with. There are hispanics of all races, pure white, pure black and there are also those who are mixed. Just because many are mixed, doesn’t all are. We come in all shapes and colors just like americans and that is what makes us beautiful, and that is what the people in the United States seem to have a hard time grasping also.

  18. well one very important thing is that race and ethnicity is not the same, they aren’t even close enough terms. There are only 4 main races in the world Caucasian race, negroid race, Polynesian race and the Mongolian race. Ethnicity is strictly a cultural thing. So you could be a white latino, a black latino, an asian latino even a native latino. Also the word latino has one main meaning it encompases a group of people that come from a culture derived from the latin language, a language now dead. This means that all the romantic languages like spanish, french, italian, portuguese and Romanian are all latin derived languages, furthermore this means that any country or culture that talks any of this languages is a latin culture or country. Latin American is a term that encompasses all latin cultures in the american continent. It can also refer to all this cultures inside the united states. Hispanic is an even more specific term it only refers to spanish speaking cultures. So Hispanic, latino, latin, latin american are not races they are ethnical terms. In fact most latinos or latins are white, over the years this countries and cultures have gotten mixed but they are basically european. Latin americans are mostly mixed with black, white and native, there are some that might be full on white. I mean look at me, i was born in south america,Ecuador to be exact, I am white although I’ve gotten tanner over the years. I have mostly spanish ancestry and a little bit of german. Racially im white, ethnically im first latin then a latin american and finally hispanic.

  19. Thank you for your heroic story. My father is mulatto. My Mom Puerto Rican. I am the darkest in my family. I’ve been through some sad times but stayed strong. I am an American and Served in the U.S Air Air Force.

  20. Hispanic and Latino are not races. Latinos are who speak a Latin Language, Spanish, French, Portuguese and Italian. I am not sure why US call just people from “Latin America” Latinos. “Hispanics are mixed races. I am from Spain and yes I am fair skin my race is white but I am Latina because I do speak Spanish.

    • Speaking Spanish does not make you a latina. It can make you hispanic because of your Spanish descent, but unless you are from north/central/south america, it does not make you a latino.

  21. This is like my story. Thank you for this. I will forever remember this and try to apply it to my life. I’m white and Hispanic, and I couldn’t be more proud.

  22. Most Puerto Ricans are white. In fact approximately 75% of Puerto Ricans are white. If your moms family is of spanish descent and doesn’t have African or Taino in you than you are technically full white. Even if you do happen to have some African or Native American blood in you, you most likely still have just as much mix as most other americans. Not all hispanics have Native American and black in them. Hispanic is a dumb term since its not a race but more of grouping people by the language they speak. Argentina for instance is 97% White 3% Native American. That’s more white than the US. Cuba is 65% White. There are also countries that are mixed predominately though. Mexico is 60% Mestizo while only maybe 9-17% white. Some places had more natives than others. Cuba lost all of its natives while Honduras or Guatemala are mostly native. Dominican Republic is mostly Mulatto. What if they created a term called Britannic for every english country and classified a Black Jamiacan as the same race as a white british man or a Polynesian New Zealander. It’s just not right.

    • I can relate to this blog. Growing up also mixed half Hispanic half French was a struggle for me as well. My mother came from South America Bolivia, actually my mother was not full Hispanic. Her Father’s parents immigrated from Spain, and her mother was half German, so she was kind of a mix herself, half Spanish and a quarter German. My Father came from the southern city of France; Marseille in the late 1980’s. I was born in Miami, Florida June 9, 1995. When I was a baby I had pale skin and brown curly hair , much like my father. As a mixed Hispanic person living in Miami, I stood out a lot from the large amount of Cubans, Puerto Ricans, and Dominicans at school. My years in Elementary were not so bad, but when I entered the sixth grade (and later on in my life)was the problem, I would be asked “What are you”?. One day I answered the girls question telling her I was mixed. At first she said “that’s cool, can you speak French”? Later I heard her speaking to her friends saying “that girl is mixed, she shouldn’t sit at this table”. She later said I was a “wannabe Latina” due to my strong tans (I was a swimmer) I remember coming home crying that day, I never felt so disliked before. Later on during Middle school and High School, I was still discriminated by Hispanics (not all of them). I was called “the white girl” by many Hispanics, one time even “wonder bread” :/. I learned to ignore them and embrace my Hispanic side more. I still did embrace my Father’s French side of course. I was never able to have Hispanic guys like me, usually it was white guys or some black guys. Today I strongly embrace both my mother’s side and my Father’s side, and I enjoy being half Hispanic half French. I also have an older brother, and an identical twin sister ^_^

  23. Thank you! Kimberly

    You articulated my personal experience growing up as an “Irican” (Irish-Puerto Rican).

    My hole life I never felt like the lone wolf in the pack,
    I felt more like the weird 1/2 wolf 1/2 dog hybrid, some strange woodsman/hippy/hesher would bring to a concert and walk around with the sad dog/wolf on a thick rope.

    Moving to Northern Michigan from a large city with a black and white community then relocating to a Anglo Northern Michigan small town & having a stereotyped Puerto Rican Father and a stereotype Irish American mother my childhood was colorful on all levels of the spectrum.

    Traditional Puerto Rican food did not go over well with the neighborhood kids. At dinner time the kids would literally flee, school lunches? ha! what kid would be trading fun fruits for a Tupperware of flan?

    But i did have my experience with dinner out of a box and the first time eating a can of spegettio’s was a laughable culture shock.

    In my small city, we were the only represented Latino minority family. Adult men and women did not have personal experience with black people or actually meet a live Puerto Rican the only experience they had is from what they saw on television. Parents would keep a hawk eye always on. Second grade school mates would mimic parents by stupidly calling me “spit” not “spic” and spit on me, say things like “isn’t picking season is over”?, “are you half n****r” or “migrants go home”.

    Having curly hair to 2nd graders meant that i was dirty! But strangely 2 years later every girl got a perm? Developing a Latina body during adolescence was a truly embarrassing and shameful and the butt of jokes literately!

    I defiantly grew up defending my roots, my father was so proud of being Puerto Rican so big i caught the feeling like it was the flu, and will never get over it.

    On the flip side being embraced by my NYC PR family was not happening I did not speak Spanish so lots of side eye, eye rolls, & they did not feel like i had the conflict of the PR struggle.

    Moving to a large city and living in a mostly South and Central American Community I do get the side eye but occasionally eyes widen with confusion when i’m eating platano chips & drinking malta walking down the sidewalk.

    So thank you for your story! we are not alone!

    • Maria,

      Thank you for sharing your story. I’m so glad you found a new sense of community in my post.

      Too many people are completely unaware of other cultures, and I imagine that someone from a mixed cultural heritage must really freak them out. I remember the “spic” insults, but just like yours, many of my childhood peers were also ignorant of its real meaning or pronunciation. There was a kid in elementary school who gleefully tried taunting me with “spic and span.” I thought it meant that Puerto Ricans were ultra-sanitary because my mom was pretty OCD about keeping the house clean.

      Your comments about the neighborhood kids and traditional PR food made me laugh. I was a “free lunch” kid and never had to bring it to school, but everyone in our neighborhood knew our house by the constant garlic and sofrito smell. It was embarrassing back then, but those same smells and foods are my go-to comfort items now. 🙂

  24. Hi,

    I don’t understand why you think that the concept of “white hispanic” is offensive. I am Mexican so I’m Hispanic, but I am 100% caucasian, so I’m white. My skin is really white, I have blond hair and pale brown eyes. So I think that white Hispanic is the only racial tag that describes me!
    I had never questioned my ethnicity because I grew up in Mexico where there are blond people and dark skinned people and in general everybody is a mix. So we never really question our ethnicity, we are just Mexican. But when I moved to the US and they ask you about your ethnicity everywhere I really didn’t know what to answer until I understood the concept of “white hispanic.” People have gotten confused when I tell them I’m Mexican and they say, “oh you look white,” well I am white, but my nationality is Mexican and of course my culture is 100% Latin American. I mean think about Cameron Diaz, she is Cuban, but she is white. Would you really argue that she is not white because she is Cuban? So why is it wrong to be white Hispanic? I think that it would be ridiculous for me to say that I’m not white just as it would be ridiculous for me to say I’m not Hispanic. So I’m white Hispanic 😉 I mean I really don’t care about what race I am or not, I just had to find out what I am supposed to answer in every paperwork here that asks about my race!

    • I disagree you are “guera” which is not the same as a “gringa”. I am a mexican that looks white but I am certainly not 100% white. Ethnic Mexicans are not pure white, and our history proves that. I have family members with green or blue eys and blonde hair and some that are dark skinned. We are Mestizos, looks don’t mean crap and I am serious. After doing geneology and studying dna ancestry it’s amazing how ignorant people are of their own race. I am 1/4 native yet I look white which is funny to me a majority of mexicans are mestizos or mixed bloods. I never ever identify myself as “white hispanic” the term is such a joke. I am Mexican American not “White Hispanic” :p

    • Thanks for sharing, Alexa. I don’t think the term is offensive, but I do find the prejudice annoying. There are too many folks – Latinos included- who insist that all Latinos must fit into a certain mold and they write off anyone who doesn’t fit.

  25. I am native amerivan and mexican. I have dark hair but my skin is olive like white and I have green eyes. I know your pain. I speak spanish. I even have an accent. But I still get called white. Although sometimes people pick up that I am latino and they speak spanish to me (makes me feel better). I just try and fit in with the rest of the latinos it works. But that after a million questions. My little sister looks mexican but she just claims to be native american. I cannot pass for eithee. But I want to embrace my culture

  26. Ahhh! I found this! My mom is Polish Italian, my dad is Costa Rican with an Irish surname and upbringing. I wound up with dark genes, except none of the culture. I learned the language in school, but I want people to stop assuming they know anything about me before trying to “connect” with me by asking me about my “heritage”.
    My sister wound up lighter, blonde hair and all (my dad was blonde as a kid, so it’s a horrible misconception that Latinos “aren’t” blonde). I’ve always envied her, because NO ONE ever stops her at random to ask her where she’s FROM. But I haven’t given much thought to the fact that she might feel it in reverse.
    Thanks for your beautiful commentary.

    • My father is Mexican. He has very dark brown skin. My mother on the other hand is Polish. With strawberry red hair. When I was born, I was white with red hair. My father never fully accepted me until the DNA results came back positive. I know the pain of being only seen as a white person. I wanted to thank you for this article, sometimes I feel like I am the only one who has this pain.

      • Chris,

        Thank you for sharing your story. You’re not alone. There are a lot of us “mixed” folks out there, and based on the feedback from this post, many of us face the same issues from both ethnic groups. It’s frustrating, but I see hope on the horizon. 🙂

  27. What a blessing to find this article. As two half white/half Puerto Rican girls growing up in NYC, my sister and I were constantly made fun of for our “pale” skin. People over the years have constantly denied us of our Puerto Rican heritage. It’s been tiring to constantly hear “No, you’re white,” “You don’t LOOK Puerto Rican,” and “Yeah, but you still have white privilege so you can’t say you’re Puerto Rican.” Yet, one of my acquaintances in high school was in ESL and came straight from the Dominican Republic. She had orange-red hair, green eyes, and skin with freckles. Who was going to tell her, a Spanish speaking girl born and raised in the Dominican Republic, that she wasn’t Dominican?

    When my sister was in college, she was berated by her professor during a class discussion for having the “nerve” to call herself Puerto Rican because, as a person who “obviously looks white and benefits from white privilege”, she couldn’t possibly understand what being Puerto Rican was actually about. Nevermind that we would spend weekends at our Abuela’s eating arroz con gandules and watching novelas. Because that professor didn’t see her fit enough to call herself Puerto Rican, her identity was taken from her in one fell swoop. Whenever she tried to speak up, she was silenced. The professor and a few students ganged up on her with every rebuttal. Another student even asked her if she was sure that her father was her real father. She came home very shaken and crying.

    My sister has straight reddish-brown hair, green eyes, and light freckled skin with red undertones; I have brown eyes, brown hair that is curly and unruly, and my skin is light with yellow/olive undertones. People still call me pale, they tell me I need to tan, they tell me I look white. A coworker of mine asked my ethnicity and did not like that part of my answer was Puerto Rican. She went around the office and took a poll to see who could actually tell I was Puerto Rican. When a few coworkers, who are also Puerto Rican, said they could tell right away she got angry. She wouldn’t let it go and every few days she tried to pry more into my life to see how it was possible.

    On the other side of that, I’ve had people ask what the hell happened to my hair when I don’t flat iron it or tell me my hair looks messy when I leave it curly. I’ve had people tell me that I need to chemically straighten my hair because it looks better that way. I’ve spent a great deal of time learning to manage my curls and learning to love them; statements like that didn’t make the process any easier. I’ve had white ex-boyfriends make fun of the way my hair naturally lies because they want it to have more of a “caucasian” texture. One ex-boyfriend called my hair scary and another only wanted my hair to be curly if I could play up a whole “Sunset Park Latina” persona complete with a name plate and hoop earrings just to fulfill his fantasy. If I ever spoke up during an argument it was my “fiery Latina temper” at work. It’s like I can’t win with a lot of white people and I cannot win with a lot of Puerto Rican people, so where do I stand? Much like the end of your article, unless I know the person well enough to not feel like I will be berated or questioned, I now answer “American” when asked about my background.

    • Hi Shana,

      It’s good to hear from you. I am so sorry for what you and your sister have gone through at the hands of “enlightened professors” and ignorant boyfriends.

      Your sister’s story is very similar to what I experienced in college. Others think we have no understanding of prejudice or what it means to be a minority because our skin color doesn’t match the stereotype. In reality, we have a deeper understanding because we watch it happen to our families, and WE get prejudicial treatment from BOTH the white and latino sides.

      Where do you stand with whites and Latinos? I’m not sure, but I do know there are a lot us standing by your side.

    • As a Puerto Rican American (Mom’s from Vega Baja,Dad..Aguada,PR)
      I thought Puerto Ricans were Black or light skinned mulatoes (“trigueños”) . Growing up in Newark as an olive skinned Rican,I was told the “Rican look” was Nuyorican hip hop,drive toyotas,get close “fade” haircuts. I never fit in with my Puerto Rican schoolmates. It was a culture of rapping,after school fights, dissin,getting accused of “acting white”. I HATED BEING PUERTO RICAN! I thought to myself,”Is that all we are? ghetto,welfare,black taino mix raped by whites? (thats whats taught in Newark Schools by radical leftists latinos and blacks) That we are ALL victims!
      In 1996,my cousin went to Puerto Rico on vacation. He asked me to join him. IT WAS A WHOLE NEW WORLD FOR ME! I COULDN’T BELIEVE IT. MOST LOOKED LIKE ME! I saw green eyed blondes,brunettes, I learned that “Trigueño” REALLY MEANT SPANIARD LOOKING BRUNETTE, NOT MULATTO,AS NUYORICANS CLAIM!
      Puerto Ricans on the island favor permanent union with the US by a 98% margin. 45% Accept Statehood as the answer, the other 45% think they can have it both ways under Commonwealth.
      Island Puerto Ricans dislike the “Nuyoricans” for imprinting a negative ghetto image of Puerto Ricans in white America’s eyes.
      Anyone who disagrees with me or calls me a “racist” only does so because they know its true.

      The island is at least 70% White in the dark Mediterranean Spaniard stock with Irish,German,Lebanese,French,Jewish,even Chinese admixture.

      This reality surfaced in a you tube video that contrasted “fake” nuyoricans with “true” Boricuas. It was called “racist because it pointed out the fact that Island Puerto Ricans ,regardless of mixture,look overwhelmingly Spaniard.

      Nuyoricans, especially those of majority black admixture , hate and challenge the existence of white latinos in PR. Yet happily accept black latinos!

  28. It’s so ignorant how people act now. I’m 100% percent Hispanic, I’m part Salvadoran from my Dad’s side and Chilean in my mom’s. My Mom and my two older brothers that came from Chile, have dark hair, dark eyes, and olive skin. My father is slightly paler. I look more like my mother, and my older brother, Miguel. My cousin from Chile married a Dominican girl, and their son has green eyes, fair skin and curly light brown hair. He’s the cutest child ever, but people usually look at my cousins with a weird expression on their face. My Chilean cousin is just like my brothers and my mom, dark hair, dark eyes, olive skin. My Dominican cousin has slightly darker skin, and has hazel eyes. One of those ignorant people asked my cousin, if his child was adopted or something since he doesn’t look “Mexican” like they did. My cousin got mad and told him off saying “This is my child! If you don’t like it that he doesn’t look latino, then that’s your problem not mine!” My cousin’s child speaks very good Spanish, and embraces his Chilean and Dominican roots, but people still stop and stare whenever my cousin’s child would say “Papi! Mami!” whenever in public or sees him speaking Spanish. It is so sad how people today are not culturally exposed. We come in all shapes colors, no matter what other people think. In Latin America, people considered with light skin or light haired are considered “beautiful” since you don’t see a lot of people with those traits. And it’s sad how people today don’t know an ethnicity could come in all colors.

  29. I am the exact same mix as you.My father is Puerto Rican and my mother is Polish. I’m from the Bronx. When I visit the island people always give me a odd looks as a kid I used to play in mud and refuse to wash my face I remember crying to my mom when she would wash me off ‘No mom stop I hate my face. Mom stop let me look pretty let me look tan. ‘ a five year old me cried I had already learned I was different.When I went to school I was classified as that white Spanish girl or by my Spanish classmates that Mexican wannabe. My own family classified everything I did as polish or Spanish my dancing and cooking were Spanish my accent and broken spanish was polish ect ect.Your story hit close to home I just have one question how do you deal with discrimination? I’m in high school now and still haven’t figured it out. I just want to fit in but I feel like my skin will always prohibit me from that. Please help.

    • Gabrielle,
      Thanks for writing in. You and I are very similar, indeed.

      I wish I could give you an answer about how to handle the prejudice and discrimination, but the sad reality is that you will always encounter people with small minds and even smaller hearts. You will never change them, and it’s not worth the time or energy. Sadly, it’s on both sides for people like us.

      You are a wonderful individual who is unlike anyone else on this earth. Embrace that. Because of your unique heritage, it’s going to be hard fitting in with a group that is driven by ethnicity or skin color. Thankfully, there are groups out there that will love and accept you for who you are on the inside. I found other kids who shared my interests and beliefs. I was a huge drama nerd, and I discovered most of the theater kids were very accepting of differences. I also found friends in church – the kids who REALLY followed the faith, not the ones who had to be there.

      Your whole world will change once you graduate from high school because you will be able to encounter a real world of diversity – different races, faiths, socioeconomic status, beliefs and more. Get out of the Bronx and meet some folks!

      As for now, you don’t have to classify your life as Polish or Latino. There is no classification for you, and that’s what makes you wonderfully different. If you want to classify yourself, “American” works well or mush it all together with “Puertolock” or “Polarican.”

      Hang in there, Gabrielle. It does get better.

  30. I’m sorry about what you went through. I’m Peruvian-American. My parents were from Lima. I have always just told people ‘I’m Peruvian’. In reality, I am Indigenous and European (not just Spanish, either). However, at 40% Native American according to my dna test, I am pretty dark.

    My husband is part Cuban and part Honduran. He is also tan. Our daughter was born with pale skin, however, and white features. People assume he and I are married to white people when we are out alone with her. She looks like a little fashion model and more Caucasian than some Caucasian people’s children. When we were out of state, we had some Southerners walking up to her stroller, mouths wide open and doing double takes like ‘what the hell!’ I heard one guy say…”At least I’m still blonde”. I can’t begin to tell you the looks of astonishment we have received. I don’t think most people understand genetics. I heard one woman quietly explaining to someone that people can be dark but have mostly white genes. I don’t know about that.

    Anyhow, my baby took after me and she is somewhat psychic. We mostly speak English around her, but she does know some Spanish. She seems to try to speak only Spanish when we are in crowded stores as if to show people that she is latina. I have noticed she does this a lot. I wonder why she feels she needs to do this. I have had many Caucasian people stop me and say ‘she’s beautiful’…but a few look angry at me for being her mom. One nasty old woman looked at my baby like she wanted to kill her. Some people drag their kids away from where my daughter and I are at the playground. I don’t know what to say. My husband and I obviously have a white person between us strange as that sounds. All my life, I have had this racial feeling of being mixed and not just one category.

  31. Hello,
    Interesting article and a good insight on the people of the Buffalo area. I live in the area myself, and have seen and heard the ignorant reactions people have toward someone not-quite-white. I can proudly say that I am an American that was born in Guatemala. And like half the population in Guatemala I am mixed (European and Native American). However, my phenotype is very Mediterranean and not too mestizo in apperance. And while I never deny my heritage, I identify as being white. I cannot and will not claim to be part of any Native American tribe, as it would be ridiculous; especially since hispanic cultures and mostly European.

    Additionally, I speak Castilian (or Spanish) and not a Mayan or the Xinka language. Many hispanics in the U.S. have grown accustomed to being labeled “other”, even when they clearly belong under a specific category. Furthermore, like it had been stated before, “hispanic” is an ethnic category, not racial. In my opinion, and some will not like it, you are multi-ethnic and not multi-racial. Additionally, I’ve noticed that in hispanic groups of the Caribbean, many claim Native American lineage or believe that all islanders are tri-racial. But the truth is that they all are not. With all due respect, have you ever considered a DNA test, I recommend They’ve been around for a long time and have forum groups that help each other.

    Ultimately, I will not ever judge or deny your ethnic pride and allegiance; I understand it 100%. Being a hispanic is complicated, and there are always many arguments on race within our communities. As you may already know each nationality under the hispanic umbrella tends to believe theirs is better, and some more than others. But, at least we acknowledge the fact that anyone can be hispanic… well, at least those of us that were born outside of America or at least had some upbringing and cultural exchange with our ancestral nation.

    Sorry this was a bit long, but I don’t normally have anyone to share this subject with. Have a good day!


  32. Really don’t see whats wrong with terms as white hispanic or black hispanic as many hispanic cultures have people that are mixed or european or african

  33. In my family, despite being 100% European, we have a strange mix of coloring. Most of my extended family that I am around is my paternal grandfather’s family, which is almost entirely English, Irish, and Scottish. As a result, I have a lot of blond- or red-haired and fair-skinned cousins. However, my grandmother has a lot of Welsh ancestry, and people tend to forget that the Welsh, though they are Celtic, are not pale like the Irish and Scottish are. As a result, my dad is quite dark, though not dark enough that people usually bring his race into question. My mother’s side is also largely English, but has significant amounts of Welsh as well. Getting a double dose of Welsh caused my sister to be quite dark-skinned and dark-haired, with curly hair to boot. She always has people ask her about her racial heritage, and she has been asked if she was Mexican, Lebanese, Polynesian, Native American, and many other things. Whenever we talk about our Italian ancestry, people assume that is where the dark coloring comes from, despite the fact that our great-grandfather was a fair-skinned Italian. They will make assumptions no matter what.

    In my personal experience, I get annoyed that people tell me I’m “just white” or “just American”. While I am certainly happy to be American and I identify as such, that is not all I am. White is not an ethnicity. Not all white people even look anything alike. In fact, I am not even fair (I have light olive skin, brown hair, and very dark eyes) but people always tell me I am blonde because my hair isn’t dark enough to be brunette, and they forget that my eyes aren’t blue for some reason. I have been asked if I am adopted when I am with my dad because I don’t have his dark hair, and also when I am with my mom because I don’t have her hazel eyes. We are all of us white, but no one believes us because we look too different. And apparently Welsh is not “exotic” enough to account for it. I think only my brother has inherited just the right features to be spared the interrogation. (He’s certainly the only one who isn’t pointed to as potentially not being related — that’s always me or my sister.)

  34. I’ve never faced this, but my children participate in a Japanese school which has a large number of families where one parent is from Japan and the other is from the U.S. It’s not just the children who suffer because of this insane attitude about racial/cultural classification and narrow-minded ideas about what it means to be of a certain race or culture. One of the other parents, a Caucasian man married to a woman originally from Japan, told me that he was frustrated when his children were forced to “check a box,” singular, to identify their race. In his words, they were required to dismiss one-half of their heritage and family history no matter what they did. His solution was to cross out the boxes asking for “race” and insert a new one identifying their race as “human.”

  35. Hi Kim, I finally had time to read this. I have to say my kiddos come from European descent but there are so many countries involved that I call them EuroMutts. I know that doesn’t seem flattering but I think mixed breeds (mutts) make the best dogs so they should make the best people too. Ok, I’m just being sassy when I say it but it really throws a monkey wrench in people’s gears. Seriously though, my husband and I both wish we had a heritage with which we could identify. I guess, however, this what our ancestors hoped for in the long run, to be American. I’d love some of your curls though.

  36. My father is hispanic and my mother was white… I felt the sting of it when I was growing up. I remember the names (taco bender, beaner, half-breed, spic, wetback, etc). Living in Mississippi and Arkansas didn’t help, but the worst is when close family members do it 🙁

  37. I think that what a lot of people who have never been or lived in PR is that Puerto Ricans, we come in all color, shapes and sizes. In PR, I have friends that look very caucasian, and I have friends that are very dark skinned. That is one of my favorite things in my beautiful island, whether you are black or white or have a last name that may not be exactly a traditional Spanish last name, there is no questioning when, especially when you talk, of what your identity is. In the end, Soy boricua aunque naciera en la luna!

  38. This is something I think about a lot for my own children. My husband is from China and I am a mix of the British isles with very pale skin and green eyes. My daughter has a very rich, dark, Asian tone to her skin with dark hair and eyes just like my husband whereas my son has my pale skin and reddish hair with dark eyes. Both have some Asian features but look very much one race and the other. I’ve always chosen to mark my daughter’s race as Asian when required to because white people always identify her as such but to her Chinese relatives she looks so white (which is actually very praised in the Chinese culture, luckily). I constantly get strange looks when I’m out with her and have been asked whether or not she was adopted multiple times. I feel like it will be different for my son who has such a fair complexion and lighter hair, that people will identify him as Caucasian and dismiss his Chinese heritage like they dismiss your Latino heritage. I always wonder how each of them will choose to identify with their races growing up so this was a wonderful insight into what it’s like to be a mixture of cultures. Thank you.

    • Thanks for your support. I really liked your blog. I didn’t have a lot of info on the Tainos, but you helped fill in some gaps. I was able to see an archeology site near Ponce that had some old rock formations and a playing field. I felt a little connection to the site. Wow, my ancestors were HERE.

  39. i can relate so much to this article! i’m half white/half mexican and i have blonde hair and blue eyes, but i feel really connected to my mexican heritage because of the presence my mexican family’s had in my life… i’m starting college right now and it took me a lot of courage to go to the latino open house. it’s complicated but i wouldn’t be the same person if i wasn’t mixed race. thanks for the article, i’m glad there are more people who have had similar experiences 🙂

  40. This is fantastic!! I am 25% Puerto Rican and I have had some of the same experiences, however most of mine have been positive and encouraging by other Latinas was so lucky with the friends I met. They constantly told me that it doesn’t matter how white my skin is, that being Latina is part of me. The discrimination I face was occasionally from Hispanics, however, many of my white friends would tell me that I cannot identify with PRs because of my skin color. Also, I loved your blog regarding Miley Cyrus, you are just an incredible writer and I cannot wait to go through and read more of your blogs! 🙂

  41. I was born in Virginia and raised there until the age of 12, whereupon we (my family) moved to Puerto Rico, where we currently live. I lived racial discrimination myself, although it was of a more covert nature than the blatant discrimination you suffered growing up.

    I commend you on being able to rise above all of the hate and tell your story. For what it’s worth, you’re Boricua to me. 🙂

    Keep fighting the good fight!
    (Maybe we could find a way to make people color-blind so they can’t discriminate based on skin tones anymore).

      • You’re welcome. You should be proud of your mixed heritage. I only get to talk about my Puerto Rican roots. You can mention your Polish roots as well. 😀

        As for mofongos: They’re good, but I loves me some alcapurrias. 😀

  42. Hello Kim, I found your blog through a mutual acquaintance. I really enjoyed your story and as somewhat of a fence straddler myself I appreciate the topic being discussed. I will look for more of your posts. Best wishes and thank you.

  43. My sister and I, both 100% Puerto Rican, born and raised, speak perfect English and look nothing alike. She’s tall, blonde, and green-eyed, and I’m petite with dark hair, somewhat tan skin, and dark eyes. It’s funny, because I work in the hospitality industry (IN the island) and tourists never believe me when I tell them I’m Puerto Rican (specially American tourists), not because of how I look, but because I speak accent-free English, I’m multilingual, a well-spoken feminist, Buddhist, and very well-traveled. I’m guessing they expected a trashy, ignorant loudmouth, pregnant-at-fifteen, drunk, and slurring in very broken English? I guess Puerto Ricans don’t read? Lol I don’t know, I usually laugh it off once I see the embarrassed look on the tourist’s face. Racial insensitivity isn’t a good response to racial insensitivity, so I never call them “gringos”, like my badly tempered friends might be tempted to do. People tend to assume I’m Italian, American, and I’ve even heard “Arab or Korean”.

    • I hate the stereotypes that are applied to Puerto Ricans. Although, I do have to confess that the PR side of my family can be rather loud. We always have to tell our grandma, “Stop yelling!” and she responds, “I’m not yelling! What’s the matter with the way I’m talking? You think I’m yelling?”

  44. I understand a little of what you are saying. My skin is completely white, dark green eyes and auburn hair. I am from Venezuela. My entire family is venezuelan but my ancestry comes mainly from Europe. But still, from my father’s side I have native blood, my great great grand father actually lived in a tribe. But when I visit the US and I start talking with my thick hispanic accent people give me the craziest reactions, some have even implied that I was faking it. I mean, am not even “american” as in from the US, I am actually from South America, born and bred, I eat arepas, and I call bananas “cambures”, and english is not my second but my third language.

    Racism has a strange way of working and it is amazing that most of the time it just show how stupid people are. How could they not accept you as a Latina? You absolutely are, I read this and I can tell, and you know, I’m a venezuelan who lives in Mexico, believe me when I say that I know when someone is Latino.

  45. I am from Colombia and my husband is from Mexico. We have two children who were born in Georgia, US. I read your post because I wanted to know more about how people feel about their heritage and background. My children are the ones who are going to face this issue. I want them to be proud of who they are and not ashamed because they are half Colombian and half Mexican. I would love to see one day when they are filling out their job application or registering their children in school that there is not a box which classifies them. In my country Colombia you are not asked about your race or ethnicity. It does not matter if you are black or white. You are Colombian, That is it. One nationality. Your skin color does not make you more Colombian than others. We have indians, mulatos, mestizos, blacks and whites. you, never ever, are going to be asked what your race or ethnicity is. I hope to see this one day here. When they just have to check the same box like everyone else: we are Americans.

  46. Hi Kim…I found this post after reading your incredibly awesome letter to your daughter regarding the Miley Cyrus debacle. This one is also very well done. I am in Southern California, well South of LA, and I think we have a completely different view on multi ethnic than other parts of the Country. My family, in the latest generation, has intermixed with African American, Chaldean (Iraqi Christians) and Latino cultures. To see a “mixed race” couple walking down the street together doesn’t even cause a second glance to most of the people around here. I think one of the things we need to be educated in as a Country is that the term “race” is a 19th century one that is completely outdated and misused. There is only one “race”, the human race. We were broken up anthropologically into the three that are still known today, yet 20th century biology outdated this when it was found, that regardless of physical appearance, we are ALL homo sapiens. We have various ethnic backgrounds obviously, and our cultures vary, but we carry the same DNA.
    Your points are well taken. My hope is someday we stop looking at the differences in each other and start recognizing our common traits. Sadly, though, some people make a living out of exploiting the differences and still making “race” an issue, not just in this Country. Sadly it happens on all sides of the dice, no one ethnicity has a corner of the market on ignorance. For what it’s worth, the majority of my ethnic heritage is Western European, predominantly Irish, however, I carry 1/8th or 1/16th Native American blood, we haven’t been able to verify which one yet.

    • Wow, your family is it’s own United Nations. 🙂 Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me. I hope that our grandkids will be able to see racial blindness in their generation.

  47. I have never fully understood this phenomena, although I understand and acknowledge it exists. Very few Americans are pure bred anything. I myself am 1/4 Italian, 1/4 Danish, and the rest an odd mixture of Scotch, Welsh, French, and American Indian. At least. There’s probably a bunch of other stuff in there too. In the end, it really doesn’t matter; our blood is interchangable, a life is a life, and no one person is more valuable than another. But for some strange reason it seems to be human nature to want to feel superior to other people, and I guess the low hanging fruit is appearance. History has borne this out time and time again. It’s a very sad commentary on the human race. 🙁

    • My grandson’s mother was Hispanic and my son is white.. On his school records he is listed as White Latino… When i registered him for school there was a block, rather several blocks for race. I did not check any, it is silly to put every child into a label. I got a note saying” check his race or we will send someone (called a looker) to see him and tag him with a race…and this is America???

      • Forcing people to identify as being part of one race or another is, IMHO, the reason we still have race relation issues. It perpetuates racial stigmas and does not encourage integration. If we want to get past this, we need to stop labeling people and calling one group or another out for special (positive or negative) treatment. We need to become truly “color blind”. We can dream…

  48. I am Hispanic, I am American (always have been, always will be). My difference is that I was adopted into a white family and raised as such. So, I know very few Spanish words. I was looked down on for not speaking Spanish. While in the military I was labeled a coconut (brown on the outside, but white on the inside). I was still looked down on then. I married a Caucasian man and have 2 beautiful children with lighter skin but dark hair. I still get looked down on by some Hispanics especially when they see my hubby is white. I don’t care as much anymore. We are raising our children to be good, kind, caring, generous, loving, etc.. The color of our skin, our religion, the amount of money we do or do not have should not matter. Thank you for this post, I truly enjoyed it.

  49. There must be something wrong with me. I am a white female who has raised three boys along with their white father. I have raised them ( without deliberate attempt ) to accept all people. Period. I have watched that cheerios commercial MANY times,,, and never once paid ANY attention to the color of the folks in the advertisement. I love the commercial !! It’s really hard for me to believe that so many ( ? ) people looked at that…… come on now folks, really. If that is true,,,,,,, SO MANY OF YOU HAVE YET TO FIGURE LIFE OUT! I feel sorry for you. Such a waste of your precious time here on this Earth.

  50. I’m so glad I happened upon your blog. While I’m the white girl in the equation, my brown eyed, golden-haired son is 1/4 Boricuan! With only minimal exposure to his great-grandfather who lived in PR until he was nearly 90, and just a bit more contact with his Bronx-born abuela (yes, we call her that) I suppose he identifies fully as ‘white’, if anything. Though a part of me knows that race should be a non-issue, I would love it if he could know more about that side of his heritage. When I learned that some sad, ignorant people in 2013 still objected to a mix-race couple being depicted in the Cheerios commercial, I got a little depressed. How could this still be?? But then I found the “Kids React to…” YouTube video on the subject, and I felt more hopeful. I’m looking forward to the world those kids will make for themselves…and everyone!

    • You should see the looks we get when my blonde son and ginger-haired daughter call my mom Wella.

      I encourage you to let your son learn more about his heritage. Pick up a few cookbooks and expose him to the flavors. Yes, white girl, you can learn how to cook Boricuan. 🙂

  51. My father is of Mexican decent and my mother of Scottish so I have blue eyes and freckles. The one year we lived in Texas I was miserable! The Mexican-American kids were always picking fights with me because I had a Spanish surname. Right after that we moved to Spain for 3 years and I felt right at home. To this day, I feel more like a Spaniard.

  52. Thanks for this blog post! I’m a light-skinned (burn after 10 minutes in the sun!), light-eyed 100% Puerto Rican who grew up in Southern Mississippi. Don’t get me wrong, I love my home-town, but Mississippi has a reputation that preceeds it in regard to discrimination. To say I have never fit into a “box” is an understatement. I have endured discrimination from my home in Mississippi, but much less than my darker-skinned, brown-eyed brother… but that is not the shocking news; sadly, I have endured more discrimination in my family’s home-town in Puerto Rico…much more than my brother…because I am a “gringa”. My heritage is unique and, to me, nteresting. In the Schools of Life, I consider my diverse up-bringing the Harvard Univeristy, School of Life (for this among other reasons). I plow through adversity like a fat kid does chocolate cake. But seriously, I appreciate your perspective, and it is nice to hear from a person with some similarities in a life perspective.

  53. I’m really glad I stumbled upon your blog, because I really needed to read what you had to say in this post. I’m 25% Italian, so I’ve always struggled to figure out where I fit in ethnically. My fiancé is 100% Mexican, and so now this whole topic applies to my life even more than it ever has. Thanks for reminding me to be proud to call myself American, because my great grandfather would be proud, too.

  54. Not alone. I was born with an English surname to a Nicaraguan woman who immigrated as a child and a third-gen American dad with British Isles ancestors – red hair, green eyes, peeled like a fish. Despite the fact that both my brother and I definitely inherited quite a bit from dad, because of our coloring, he and I and mom looked like a family and dad looked different. I identified as White Hispanic easily as a child – the best option for me in my suburb – but I know my classmates never knew quite what to think. I had a classmate attack me for being Sandanista (Sandanwho? I was 9 and born in CA) and my brother was called nigger in elementary school. As an adult in Tucson people seemed to learn to respect what I identified as. Then I moved to the Bronx for graduate school, and I’ll never forget being addressed on the street in Spanish, having insufficient Spanish to answer, and having people look at me like there was something wrong with me because I wasn’t taught Spanish in the home. My dissertation was on multiethnic college students. I married a French-Irish-Polack and we have 3 tan brunettes who look somewhat similar … and a blue eyed, curly blond haired girl with a tan who stands out. I try to help her see how she and I are alike, rather than different.

  55. The country is rooted within the one drop rule. So no surprise there, 1st of all.

    As for you being offended by “white hispanic”, with all due respect I don’t agree. I mean I don’t agree with racial definitions in general for the most part, but you can be Asian, Black, White, etc. and still be Hispanic. People would look at you and treat you as a white person like you said, so although on paper you’re one thing, in the end, people are judged ultimately by their appearance and what they look like. There are people who are “black” for example who are very light in complexion and could pass for other “races”. In the end it’s unimportant, I just wanted to point out that all over the world there are Asians, Blacks, Whites, etc. who also identify as Hispanic

  56. The country is rooted within the one drop rule. So no surprise there, 1st of all.

    As for you being offended by “white hispanic”, with all due respect I don’t agree. I mean I don’t agree with racial definitions in general for the most part, but you can be Asian, Black, White, etc. and still be Hispanic. People would look at you and treat you as a white person like you said, so although on paper you’re one thing, in the end, people are judged ultimately by their appearance and what they look like. There are people who are “black” for example who are very light in complexion and could pass for other “races”. In the end it’s unimportant, I just wanted to point out that all over the world there are Asians, Blacks, Whites, etc. who also identify as Hispanic

  57. As a Mexican, Native American, Italian and German person, I feel your pain and appreciate your words. I’m stuck in the middle and cannot seem to find a place on either side. Truly sad!

  58. Hello-
    My mom is PR and my dad is 1/2 Polish and 1/2 Hungarian. I am married to a 100% PR guy, born in NYC the same year that I was. When we met in college we dated under a false pretense. He thought I was part asian, I thought he was black! We laugh about how we thought we were so exotic until we found out we were both PR!

    My inlaws were annoyed that he brought home another white girl…until they met my grandmother. Then they loved me! They still do. Even though they joke that I’m too white and too skinny!

    One of my daughters looks straight up PR, the other looks like she came from India. People often ask where she is adopted from.
    I consider myself and my children American first and foremost as does my husband. It has never been an issue for us. Most of our friends our mixed also and have adopted in even more races, so my girls have no clue as to race or prejudice.

    I do a Polish Easter feast and a Latino New Years Eve each year. I can make San Cocho one day and peirogi the next, it’s awesome to have such a wealth of heritage on both sides to draw from. We are blessed!

  59. My name is Brenda and im with all you mothers and I raised two wonderful daughters, so I’m awere of what it takes to raise a girl, but I would not trade places with any of you mothers who have young girls to raise at this day and time, I have got to give it to you mothers!!!

  60. This spanish, french, scottish, yaqui native american with a great tan love your story & stand with all who love & stand proud on all their lineages. I love my family history!!! We are American!!!

  61. I just wanted to say that it hurts my heart to know that people still act like this in 2013. We are all American. It is interesting to know how much of our country is Hispanic and how much is ‘white’ or ‘Native American’ but I wish we didn’t get so hung up on these things.

    I am a quarter Polish and a quarter Native American. I am also 1/18 Irish and 1/18 English so you can’t really tell that I have Cherokee in me; so I never mark that box or claim it in conversation. But I would like to. I am proud of my Native American heritage and wish that I would talk about it without people questioning me, but all they see is my red hair and freckles. I am also proud to be Polish, so much so that I don’t mention the Irish part of me very often. (People see red hair and assume ‘Irish’) But this year I decided that I have had this blood coursing through my veins for 26 years, and its time I get comfortable with all of who I am.
    Maybe following your blog will inspire me.

    • Symanntha, you are what America is all about – you are the personification of a melting pot. Check out what all the other commenters said. We all have similar experiences and similar feelings. We are comfortable with who we are, it’s others who aren’t.

  62. I have been answering “I am american” ever since high school. I’m not latino enough or black enough, but what difference does it make really. We’re PEOPLE. Beyond that, who cares 😉

  63. Your cousin Joaquina shared your post on Facebook and I am glad I chose to click on it. This is such a thoughtful account of your experience as a multiracial individual. I found it interesting that you experienced discrimination from both sides. It must have been so challenging growing up and not feeling truly accepted by either culture. I am a white girl. I never really though much about race growing up. I was not prejudiced, but I also never considered the challenges that “minorities” faced. As an adult, it’s important to me to read accounts like yours because they help me to understand something which I can never truly experience myself. Prejudice is still a widespread problem in our country. I know this. I heard the stories from the children I worked with in Philadelphia who came from diverse races and ethnicities. And I’ve heard others stories like the one you’ve shared here. I applaud you for being a strong, independent woman and mother and embracing your background despite the difficulties you’ve faced. And, I applaud you for teaching your children to love their multiracial selves. It is in invaluable lesson you are teaching them. Great post!

    • I love my little cousin, and I am so glad she shared this. She experienced many of the same issues I did. I’m glad that my story helped ignite a desire to learn more about others’ perspectives. God bless you, friend.

      • Come down to Latin America and then the thing gets REALLY complicated. If you think the US is a melting pot, you should come down here.
        As a foreign college student in the US (Syracuse Univ., NY), I always laughed at that “hispanic” or “latino” label that people always wanted to lay on us. That is not a race, its a label. Period. Our university even went as far as having TWO student groups, the HAS (Hispanic-American Society) and La Casa Latinoamericana. US foreign Latin American students were not welcomed in the first one. How do you like them apples. 😀
        I am very comfortable with my English, Spanish (on both sides), Native American (Mayan or Lenca), French background. They call us MESTIZOS (Mixed) down here, and in Honduras we represent over 90% of the population.
        I have to admit, that I never suffered from discrimination when growing up, like Kim did, at least until I got to the States. I remember asking my Freshman year dorm roommate, a white Jewish kid from Long Island, Ny, what he thought I would look like when he got notice I was a Honduran named Alberto Downing. His answer was… I really didn’t know what to think. You sounded half Italian (Alberto), half Chinese (he thought Downing was Chinese because it ended in -ing

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