Being Mestizo is Complicated

… it is important to know the term I use to identify myself. I identify as mestizo, which is a person with a mixed ancestry of white Europeans and an indigenous people group. My ancestry consists of 75% white European and 25% indigenous Mexican.

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Scars are interesting. They’re usually made by a painful moment in life (cut, accident, surgery,  etc), and these scars are a constant reminder of the pain. Scars are a direct result of a traumatic event, but there are some scars that are internal and invisible to the naked eye.

You can see the scars on my chest and stomach from the numerous heart surgeries since 2015, but there is one internal scar that you can’t see and I’ve not shared it too often. I’m honestly hesitant to share it, but I think it’ll help with this post.

During college, I had a surprise birthday thrown for me. The party began with a blindfold entrance to a party consisting of the most stereotypical Mexican items: a string of Mexico flags draped around my shoulders, a sombrero, a piñata filled with Taco Bell, and tiny maracas. I played along with it. I was so used to my white friends making ignorant remarks and gestures that I just forced myself to swallow my anger.

But when I told a Latino friend about this experience, she rolled her eyes. She later stated that it’s not as big of a deal for me because of the color of my skin: white with freckles. She said something that belittled my pain, but she had a point:

I had, and will always have, privilege that other Latinos have no chance to experience.

I Have Privilege

Before I get into my privilege, it is important to know the term I use to identify myself. I identify as mestizo, which is a person with a mixed ancestry of white Europeans and an indigenous people group. My ancestry consists of 75% white European and 25% indigenous Mexican. Because I am mestizo with white skin, I have privilege.

When a stranger meets me, they usually assume I am Caucasian, and this is solely because of my skin color. Sometimes when I share my last name, Gonzales, the other person’s face and demeanor change. On occasion, people have entered the conversation with a smile, and after sharing my name with them, they are visibly uncomfortable.

I once attended an event with a college friend in his old high school, and since I had nothing to do there, I looked for a place to study. While searching, I had a police officer approach me and after seeing my last name on my license, he asked me for my social security card. I explained that I don’t carry that around (like most people), so he then escorted me to another part the school “until he could find someone that could identify me.”

I have privilege at first glance, but discrimination comes shortly after hearing my name. Other mestizo men and women with darker skin have a very different experience, so I have to acknowledge that I have privilege.

An aspect of being mestizo is the idea that there can be no safe place to turn to. Most, if not all, other mestizo men and women have expressed to me a sense of unacceptance from both parts of their ethnic background.

No Safe Space

Growing up in a south suburb of Chicago, the Latino community made up only 5.9% of my hometown. The White community made up 56.05% of its population, so there was a huge gap between the two. Subconsciously I drifted towards friendships with white boys and girls, but I didn’t ever find the acceptance I had hoped for. Because of my last name, my friends always mentioned that I wasn’t white, I was Mexican. I learned to ignore their ignorant jokes and comments because I simply didn’t feel like I had another choice. I wasn’t white enough, so I never felt accepted.

When I attended the University of Missouri, the white population increased to 78.3% and the Latino population decreased to 3.6%. The difference at Mizzou was that I interacted with more Latinos than ever before. As I befriended Latinos at school, I began experiencing a similar feeling from my new friends. I wasn’t Latino, I was White. I didn’t speak Spanish, I was ignorant of Mexican culture, and I had white skin and freckles. I wasn’t Latino enough, so I never felt accepted.

I felt like I’ve had to pick one or the other for as long as I could remember, and I refused for society to tell me who I was. Being mestizo made my identity confusing for a very long time, but I finally came to a comfortable place to self-identify as Latino.


Even though I am Latino, I have another identity that transcends my ethnicity.

My New Identity

I am a Christian. That’s who I am above all else.

I was identified as a sinner, an enemy of God, and constantly resisted Him, and I fell short of His glory (Romans 3:23). I would’ve admitted that I sinned, but I thought I had to try to be good to be loved by God. I was unable and unwilling to love God (1 Corinthians 2:14). I never truly understood the gospel, and I honestly never cared too much to seek it out. I definitely did not deserve God’s grace, love, and forgiveness; I deserved hell (1 Thessalonians 1:8-9).

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of his great love that he had for us, made us alive with Christ even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace! He also raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might display the immeasurable riches of his grace through his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.  For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift — For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do. (emphasis added)
Ephesians 2:4-10

I am now identified as a follower of Jesus.

I am no longer seen by God as a sinner; I am now seen as a redeemed saint (Ephesians 2:18-20). I am no longer unable to love and please God; I, through the power of the Holy Spirit, can please Him (Romans 8:8-9). I am no longer heading towards hell; I am a chosen child of God heading towards heaven (Romans 8:28-30).

I am mestizo, and, miraculously, I am a Christian. I was born a mestizo man and I was born again as a follower of Christ.

Jacob Luis Gonzales

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