The Curious Case of the Ambiguously Mexican Red Head

Growing up, I didn’t really fit in. My father, who I talk to almost every day, is Mexican and has never lived in the US. My mother is Anglo-American. They married in Mexico in 1967, the same year that anti-miscegenation laws were banned across the US. I was born five years later in Mexico City with red hair, white skin, and blue eyes. When I was one year old my parents divorced and my mom, my sister and I moved to California where we have lived ever since.

Trinidad, my Mexican grandmother, had red hair.

In third grade, my sister and I were taunted by neighborhood boys who called me Burrito, and my sister Taco Tits. Growing up in the Reagan Era, I can’t tell you how many people upon learning that I am Mexican said, “You can’t be. You must be Spanish.” As if being Mexican was one of the worst things a person could be.

In high-school when I got into Berkeley, my college advisor told me that it must have been because of Affirmative Action. The implication being that I had no reason for acceptance except for the fact that people of color were granted priority entrance regardless of their merits–a truly false understanding of Affirmative Action. In reality, race counted as an additional merit when student’s were considered for admission, but it didn’t give them priority entrance.  And later when I dated a young Black man and the LA riots hit, he told me he couldn’t date any more white girls. “I guess that means we can’t date anymore”, I said. “You’re not white”, he smiled. “You’re Mexican”. How convenient–for him.

Growing up with others imposing their views on me about my identity led me to hide who I was for a long time. But in college I started learning about the history and politics of race in our country. I realized that so many people of color had it a lot worse than me. My Mexican heritage gave me just a taste of what others who can’t pass for white go through. I became acutely aware of the privilege that came with the white color of my skin.

Instead of letting others tell me who I was, I started to grapple with how I wanted to classify myself. Did the One-drop rule apply to me? Or was I a white Mexican? Well, not really because I’m also Anglo-American. Was I Mexican-American? Not quite as that label has been assigned to Americans who are of pure Mexican decent. Maybe I was half Mexican and half American? Hmmm…that implies that the my upper half is one ethnicity and my legs and feet the other.

In my early 30s, I had an epiphany. I realized that I don’t have to choose one over the other. I’m not either/or. I’m both/and, without a doubt and damn proud of it, thank you very much!

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10 thoughts on “The Curious Case of the Ambiguously Mexican Red Head

  1. I have two grandkids with red hair. Well it’s actually dark orange. There dad is mexican and there mom is white. They have beautiful olive colored skin and brown eyes. We were all shocked when the first one was born with that hair clolor. And then came the second one almost two years later. We’ve always wondered where it came from. I think there dads mom was born in Mexico. There’s only one othere mexican I’ve met with red hair. And both her parents are mexican. It’s not real common around here.
    Were from Tx.

  2. I am a strawberry-blonde with fair freckled skin and married to a colorado mexican with near-black hair and exceptional tanning abilities. All her family from every side comes from mexico, but she grew up in michigan. We are both young, so that coupled with the cultural and racial diversity of mid-michigan that we both grew up in, social acceptance was never an issue (thank God). I think the fiery temper of the redhead is a good counter-balance to the feisty-sass of the mexican, haha! She would admit to this too. Ever since I played with the idea of getting married and having kids, I always wanted to pass along my red hair genetics to my kids. Now that I am married to a mexican with dominant genetics over my own, I was discouraged in thinking this would never happen. Now I know it’s possible! Now it’s just a matter of finding out how possible it really is. I enjoyed your blog. Thank you very much.

  3. loved this article! i have 2 red headed mexican babies. i am blonde with light brown eyes and of course my husband has dark hair, eyes and skin. my son is 3 1/2 and has red hair, brown eyes and tans VERY well and my daughter 1 1/2 has red hair BLUE eyes! their hair is a beautifu auburn and i get so many compliments wherever we go. of course my sons hair is curly. everyone tells me how rare and unique it is. i’m glad i found some people that are also red headed mexican. i love them! 🙂

  4. I too am a Meixcan Red-Head!!! I thought there for a minute that I was a rareity, but I guess not. I have to say that by looking at your picture, you and i look more white then Mexican. I love who I am. I love the fact that i can actauly tan in the summer, and love all the other atributes of haveing the Mexican heritage.

  5. My son is 2 (he is half white, half Mexican) and he is as pale as myself, and has my hair color (I am fair-skinned with light brown hair). My husband (his father) does have black hair and darker skin when he is in the sun, but his natural tone, unexposed to the sun, is almost as white as mine. People still say my son looks like his dad though, and he does. They have the same brwon eyes and facial features, among other things. Ever so often, you have the rare few who make remarks. Once while eating at a Chinese restaurant, one of the waitresses nodded towards my husband and said, “He’s the father?” Hello! The nerve people have. Enjoyed this article!

  6. I feel you. I am a “red headed Mexican” too… I am half Mexican, my dad from Mexico, my mom a blond American… and I came out with red hair? There were lots of jokes about me being the milk man’s daughter when I was growing up. It makes me a little sad to not feel as connected to my Mexican heritage… well, I do feel connected, but people assume I am not because of how I look.

    Anyway, thank for you sharing. This was great to read.

  7. Yes, human beings can give the human race a bad name.

    Bravo on an enlightening piece.

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