Striving & Hiding

By Gabriela Cortez


I’ve been striving for whiteness my entire life

As a child, my Tías complimented my skin tone and shamed their external darkness.

So I strived.

As a child, I was trained on what “beauty” looked like. As my grandparents glued their eyes to the color disproportionality in telenovelas.

So I strived.

As a child, I remember thinking, “why don’t I look like them?”, in regards to the handful of pale skin in our sea of brown.

So I strived.

As an early teenager, I believed I could never be seen without makeup, and that I wasn’t good enough to look at as a “plain Jane”.

So I hid under makeup to strive.

As a teenager, I developed eating disorders to strive for that “beauty”. Food relationships I’m still battling today.

So I hid my eating habits to strive.

As a college student, my self-hatred spiraled. Wishing I didn’t binge eat so that I could be thinner, not realizing I associated my emotions of self-worth with food (or lack there of). Wishing my hips weren’t bigger than my friends. Wishing I got the attention from people as the “beautiful” seemed to. Wishing people stopped asking me if I was a first generation student. Wishing people stopped telling me what ethnicity they thought I was, and asking where I’m “originally from”.

So I hid under a religion I knew would accept me.




As a twenty-something, I experienced life outside of TX in a white outdoor NC world. My new not-so-brown friends laughed and commented on my accents in words. Statements such as, “say it again” or “why do you have to say it like t h a t ?”, helped me further bury my gaze away from my me.

So I hid my culture.

As a twenty-something, I was told “I don’t like it when people use language out of context”… as in it was wrong to use the Tex-Mex Spanglish I grew up on. As in it makes them uncomfortable when we’re at a Mexican Restaurant and I say things properly.

So I hid my voice.

As a twenty-something, I was told by the people I hid from, “well you’re not rrreally Mexican.”

So I hid my life.

As a twenty-something, I sat drunkenly with my girlfriends taking pictures to cherish before we each adventured on in our own direction.


"Wow. I like know I’m Hispanic, but I look rrreally Mexican in this picture”

As I sat and stared at my foreign face, I was confused about my appearance.



Years of treating myself how people treated me.

Hiding from myself in plain sight.

Thankful my hiding was unsuccessful. “Wherever you go, there you are”- as I’ve heard people say in support groups.

Here I am, striving for my truest me.



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