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Mexican American Disambiguation

Photo credit: Acadamy of American Poets

Published on Portside ( /mexican-american-disambiguationPortside Date: April 12, 2019 Author: José Olivarez Date of source: September 13, 2017

By José Olivarez after Idris Goodwin my parents are Mexican who are not to be confused with Mexican Americans or Chicanos. i am a Chicano from Chicago which means i am a Mexican American with a fancy college degree & a few tattoos. my parents are Mexican who are not to be confused with Mexicans still living in México. those Mexicans call themselves mexicanos. white folks at parties call them pobrecitos. American colleges call them international students & diverse. my mom was white in México & my dad was mestizo & after they crossed the border they became diverse. & minorities. & ethnic. & exotic. but my parents call themselves mexicanos, who, again, should not be confused for mexicanos living in México. those mexicanos might call my family gringos, which is the word my family calls white folks & white folks call my parents interracial. colleges say put them on a brochure. my parents say que significa esa palabra. i point out that all the men in my family marry lighter-skinned women. that’s the Chicano in me. which means it’s the fancy college degrees in me, which is also diverse of me. everything in me is diverse even when i eat American foods like hamburgers, which, to clarify, are American when a white person eats them & diverse when my family eats them. so much of America can be understood like this. my parents were undocumented when they came to this country & by undocumented, i mean sin papeles, & by sin papeles, i mean royally fucked, which should not be confused with the American Dream though the two are cousins. colleges are not looking for undocumented diversity. my dad became a citizen which should not be confused with keys to the house. we were safe from deportation, which should not be confused with walking the plank. though they’re cousins. i call that sociology, but that’s just the Chicano in me, who should not be confused with the diversity in me or the mexicano in me who is constantly fighting with the upwardly mobile in me who is good friends with the Mexican American in me, who the colleges love, but only on brochures, who the government calls NON-WHITE, HISPANIC or WHITE, HISPANIC, who my parents call mijo even when i don’t come home so much.

José Olivarez is the son of Mexican immigrants. His debut book of poems, Citizen Illegal, was a finalist for the prestigious PEN/ Jean Stein Award and a winner of the 2018 Chicago Review of Books Poetry Prize. It was named a top book of 2018 by NPR and the New York Public Library. Along with Felicia Chavez and Willie Perdomo, he is co-editing the forthcoming anthology, The BreakBeat Poets Vol. 4: LatiNEXT. He is the co-host of the poetry podcast, The Poetry Gods and a recipient of fellowships from CantoMundo, Poets House, the Bronx Council on the Arts, the Poetry Foundation, & the Conversation Literary Festival. His work has been featured in The New York Times, The Paris Review, and elsewhere. In 2018, he was awarded the first annual Author and Artist in Justice Award from the Phillips Brooks House Association and named a Debut Poet of 2018 by Poets & Writers. See also,

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