I´ve got this stigma that I just can´t shake.
No matter how long I´ve lived here, no matter how awesome my Spanish is, no matter how many times I walk my dog around the block (or maybe because I walk my dog around the block so often), it´s becoming clear to me that I will always be "The Gringa". Even when I´m 75 and will have lived here for 50 years, I bet I´ll still be "The Gringa".
Now, that´s not necessarily a bad thing. And, depending on the situation, I know that my "Gringa" label puts me in a privileged position, so I´m not complaining. The label just keeps slapping me in the face with perspective.
Is there a story to go along with this insight? You bet´cha!
As stated before, I´m a stay-at-home mom. The job has many perks, but loneliness is a common complaint. In a effort to get out of my house and be more active in my community, I ran up to my church´s office one August day a few years ago, answering their yearly plea for catechists. Work with children who weren´t my own? It sounded great to me. They asked me for my number, and I gladly gave it.
And they never called.
Now, maybe they actually had plenty of catechism volunteers that year. It´s entirely possible. Perhaps the office staff doesn´t communicate effectively with the catechism coordinator. Also possible. But seriously--who gets denied the opportunity to teach Sunday school? Maybe this is one of those instances where Mexico is wildly different from the US, because in my experience, there are NEVER enough Sunday school teachers (or catechists, if we continue to speak Catholic).
So there was a dream deferred.
Last year when Clara started preschool, all the parents were summoned to a meeting to pull straws to decide who would serve on the PTA board. Volunteers were not forthcoming, so as the principal´s eyes were scanning the crowd, I made some kind of tentative, affirmative, "I-can-do-this" motion. If only to get the meeting moving along so we could leave. However, the open post was for secretary, and we kind of all agreed (myself included) that maybe The Gringa should not have to be responsible for writing everything down. In Spanish. Whew--danger averted!
Fast forward to this year:
I took Clara to the church office to sign her up for catechism. I repeated my desire to help with the catechism program. They told both Clara and I to just show up on Saturday, sign up then, and let the coordinator know I wanted to help. I could have knocked him over with a feather, with my request to help, but I´m now in like Flynn.
And at the PTA draw-straws event this year, the volunteers were flying off the shelves. I breathed a sigh of relief, thinking I would be free from responsibility and could simply pay my dues and be done.
Then the principal realized that the PTA board consisted entirely of parents from one class. We can´t have that!
"Hey, Clara´s mom--why don´t you join us?"
There was no delicate way of declining. Plus, I was a wee bit curious to know what exactly goes on with the PTA board. So now I have a few responsibilities outside of my home. Whew! After getting my driver´s liscense, this feels like Step #2 of being a real adult again.
So do I wonder if being "The Gringa" stood in my way in the past in my efforts to be more involved. Sure. Did being "The Gringa" put me forward unintentionally? Quite likely. Like I said, at least it´s a neutral/positive label to bear.
My sympathies for those who have to fight their labels. May I not be one of those who impede you.