My name is Sarahí — not Sahari, not Sara-He, not “I’m not going to be able to say that so I’ll just call you Sarah." Growing up I’ve always felt a strong connection to my Mexican heritage, especially through my name. When people don’t put in the effort to pronounce my name correctly or simply dismiss it, I feel like they are effectively dismissing a large part of who I am proud to be, making the silent statement that my name and I are not worth their time. But I’ve learned to unapologetically defend my name and the culture it carries.
I grew up in El Paso, TX, where my life has been built on the duality of the border, witnessing the parallels and intersections of different cultures, where many children and parents travel across the border every day just to go to school or work. In that sense, it never really felt like a true border but a fluid one, where people and cultures mingle and meet. In a way I feel the same, a mixture of Mexican and American cultures, not really one or the other but both. It was difficult growing up feeling challenged to prove myself ‘more Mexican’ to Latinos and ‘more American’ to Americans.
Even though lighter skin is perceived as more desirable in Latino communities, I’ve always wanted to look more like my mom— to have darker skin, to have thick curly hair, to have people look at me and automatically identify me as Mexican. There is something special about the warm way Mexican culture fully embraces its members as family, the instant connection we feel towards one another. It’s funny how you don’t really miss the culture or realize what you have until you're farther away from it. At UT, I find myself wanting more of my culture, wanting to cook more Mexican food, to listen to more Latin music, to speak more Spanish.
For many immigrants and children of immigrants in America, food is one of the greatest links they feel to their cultural origins. For me, it’s language. Somehow the Spanish language allows for greater vulnerability in communication, more openness to everyone including strangers, more passion. At my current internship with the Workers Defense Project, I experience the way that Spanish grants me an instant connection with the people we serve.
I am proud to be a first generation Mexican-American, daughter of immigrants. I hope that my passion for my people never dies, for the immigrants who’ve come before me and those who will continue to cross borders and oceans. I hope others like me continue to be unapologetically themselves, despite it all.