Beyond Color

My entire life has been influenced by diversity. Laredo, Texas is located along the Rio Grande River, joining two international cities, Laredo and Nuevo Laredo and two countries, The United States of America and The Republic of Mexico. I know how a river can either bond or separate nations, cultures and ideologies. Here two cultures are deeply interwoven.

During my freshman year of high school, I was not academically challenged; however, I did become immersed into the Mexican culture. At J.B. Alexander, half of the students lived in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico and crossed the international bridge daily for school. My interaction with these students taught me to appreciate a different culture; we were united. Living in Laredo, the citizens are blended into a certain Mexican/American culture that cannot be found anywhere else. The language that we speak is a perfect embodiment of this culture. Neither Spanish, nor English is spoken. Just as everything else is blended, so is the language, in a quirky melange that can only be characterized as Spanglish. Both the American and Mexican cultures have influenced me, and shaped the person I am today.

In Laredo I lived in a bubble, oblivious to any other lifestyles. I had never been on my own before, always surrounded by friends; I knew everyone in that small city. Thus when I moved to a private high school in San Antonio, a new world presented itself to me; I was like a newborn just opening my eyes. I was intrigued; there were new customs, new cultures, and a new lifestyle. I was scared and timid but I felt a sense of enlightenment because the environment was different; books, learning, studying, they were all encouraged and considered mainstream. Each student had a rigorous academic plan that they had to complete. Learning was everywhere. The students seemed the same to me: white, studious, and hardworking.

How could I possibly fit in? I didn’t at first, cliques were formed and peers had been there since Montessori; it was almost impossible to become close to anyone. Since I was different and new, I struggled, but I showed my true colors. I like being open and sharing my life experiences with everyone. Take away reputations, social standards, judgment, and replace them with tolerance; it can result in the formation of new friendships that may not have transpired due to pre-established stereotypes.

The students that were receptive to me, love my traditions now: the savory tacos, the custom greeting of a “beso” (kiss on the cheek), and the dialect. Interesting enough, when I turned sixteen, my parents graciously hosted my Sweet Sixteen. I invited my friends from Laredo to join my new friends in San Antonio. I felt like an ambassador. Cultures merged and new bonds were formed. The atmosphere was swarming with diversity of different cultures, laughing and dancing away.

Diversity goes beyond someone’s outside looks; it’s whom they are, defining them as a person. Someone’s home, their ideas, everything they have experienced in life, and carry with them is how they will contribute to a campus’s diversity. If I just show who I genuinely am, I will always be accepted.

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