Growing Up Mexican-American

Growing up mixed certainly had its ups and downs. For me, there was the fun of getting to celebrate two cultures - which meant exploring the ancient Aztec pyramids and vibrant street markets with my grandparents in Mexico City, along with playing football and eating Thanksgiving Day turkey with my American cousins in my hometown, Madison, Wisconsin. 

Alternatively, it didn’t take long for me to notice I was different. 

In Wisconsin, grades 1-8 were required to take the Iowa Test of Basic Skills - my first standardized test. I had never seen a bubble sheet before, but our teacher walked us through filling out basic information about ourselves like our name, address and birthday. When it came to selecting your ethnicity, it said to choose only one. I remember raising my hand and telling my teacher, “I’m Mexican and American, how do I fill this out?” Her response was a gentle and casual, “just pick one, honey.” 


I remember feeling my heart race as a young seven year old. Pick one? How am I supposed to just pick one? Which one am I supposed to pick? If I choose just one, does that make me less of the other? The rest of the day I was in a fog. But none of my friends seemed to understand. They all had the same nonchalant attitude as my teacher - “just pick one, Ruby, it’s not that big a deal.”

My dad introduced my sister and I to fútbol when we were very young. We’d play almost every day in our backyard, and when we were old enough, joined a league. I remember the World Cup in 2002 was held in Jeonju, South Korea. The considerable time zone difference meant my dad, sister and I would wake up at all hours of the night to watch the games live. Our most anticipated match was MEXICO vs USA in the round of 16. We woke up at 3 a.m. to watch the game at a sports bar, as it was the only open venue showing the match. I was exhausted but excited, feeling so lucky to get to see my two countries playing on one screen. Once the match started, the waiter came over to our table to take our order. He asked me, “who are you rooting for?” It was such a simple question but I was stumped. Choosing a team to support felt like having to choose between my two ethnicities, both of which I loved so much, equally.


On the surface, these are seemingly meaningless moments. But these and countless other experiences significantly influenced my perception of myself, the world and society around me, and my attempts to figure out how and where I fit into it all. 


Being mixed, identity confusion starts at a young age. It begins with a subtle moment like the ones I described - a profound experience disguised as insignificant. And then it grows in a compounding manner - spreading and expanding with every subsequent event that makes you question your mixed identity. Sometimes you feel like you belong, sometimes you feel completely isolated - and sometimes you feel both at the exact same time. You find yourself wondering where you fit in, at times feeling like an imposter in your own skin. Without realizing it, you set out on the eternal quest for “enough.” 

Meeting Taylor was a milestone for me. We came from totally different backgrounds and upbringings, but we had so many shared experiences that connected us. Together, we realized that there are many others just like us, silently navigating the mixed identity crossroads. 

The journey to embracing your mixed background is full of peaks and valleys, and it’s not an easy one. But ultimately, being mixed is such a beautiful gift, opportunity, and something to be proud of - it’s our superpower! This is why I quit my 9-5 corporate job to be able to put my full time and energy into starting Mixed Millennial (more on this later). I’m committed to building our community, starting the conversations that mixed people want and need to have, and helping YOU in any way that I can. Please feel free to DM the @mixedmillennial insta account or my personal one @rubylivier. I am so looking forward to connecting with you, hearing all of your thoughts & feedback, and sharing your stories with our community!

Written by Ruby Herrera

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