If I say border, what do you picture? Is it rough-skinned laborers, desert skies and flat plains blanketed by the shadow of an overbearing wall? To the untrained eye this is the beginning, middle and end of the Latino story in the United States. However, our border narrative goes beyond the Rio Grande.
Our political debates are oversaturated by one-dimensional immigrant tales that ignore Latinos’ larger complexities. These stories are not one-size-fits-all and do not properly represent the Latino demographic as a whole.
Hispanics are connected to one another not by race, but through a similar social background. The 55 million Hispanics nationwide represent 17% of the U.S. population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Despite this, only a third are foreign born. The remaining share of Hispanics cannot relate to the majority of border narratives that focus on immigration and adjusting to American life because they are already born and bred Americans.
Undeclared freshman Edgar Gonzalez said he is disconnected from the border narrative because he never experienced it.
“I was born in America,” Gonzalez said. “I am more American than Mexican in that regard but am more Mexican culturally.” He is like the two-thirds of American born Hispanics who struggle with a conflict of identity because they are obligated to choose between one half of their identity or the other — but never both.
The problem does not stem from the border narrative itself, but from how it is told. Latinos wield the power to change the direction of the border narrative to relate more to their everyday challenges. Professor of English Patricia M. Garcia clarifies that border narratives can adapt depending on the writer.
“A border narrative is any sort of story that describes and discusses what it means to live between two things,” Garcia said. “The media only sees one side of each border. They often don’t understand that the border and these identities coexist.”
The solution to this is an emergence of Hispanic writers detailing their individual stories — leading to a rise of diverse Latino characters with striking complexities and varying careers to demonstrate that Hispanics are just as American as apple pie, but with our own twist.
The current representation of Latinos is troublesome because it simplifies our experience to something black or white. The border is manifested into the soul of each Latino individual. We can merge our Mexican, Venezuelan, or any Latin American identity into our American persona. While politicians might want to build a higher wall on the outside, we possess the power to disrupt that block internally and unite our backgrounds into one.
This is not to discredit the hardship of the immigrants before us who gave us the opportunity to be where we are today. The power in a border narrative gives hope and inspires us to make our own choices. Our families came to set us free, but we must make ourselves grand.
Fernandez is a rhetoric and writing and spanish junior from Allen.