I Was Raised As Caucasian While I Was Part Mexican-American

Someone in one of my adoption groups recently wrote a post about finding out that she’s half Puerto Rican, but was raised by a white European family and told she was fully caucasian all her life. She found her biological father via a DNA test and is realizing just how much she missed out on, culture and language-wise.

I’m not half, or even a quarter, of another ‘race’ (I don’t know what other word to use even though I don’t like that word), but I can relate. I’m a significant amount of another, and if my parents knew this my entire life, they never told me.

My grandmother and her siblings are Mexican with some Spanish some generations back. I’m almost 11% Native Mexican and 10.9% Spanish/Portuguese. There’s even a tiny bit of Italian in there, something like 1%. That’s a LOT to show up in a DNA report of someone who was told all their life that they’re completely caucasian and that their parents didn’t know anything about their bio family. Which I’m not sure was a lie, but as my mom has passed away and my dad insists he knows nothing about it, I have no proof.

My mom had my adoption records in a file in her apartment that they never told me about. These records have information about my biological family members, bio parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and even my two older brothers. Addresses, phone numbers, and other information I would have wanted long before I got to see them. I had not seen those records until two years ago, but even then, I wasn’t able to process what that meant when I found it in my mom’s apartment after she passed away. Something in me was protecting me from that and I was already dealing with her death, her memorial services, settling her last finances, her will and lawyers, cleaning out and selling her apartment, and planning our wedding. It is possible that only she knew about the file and that maybe she got it 10 years ago when my bio sister contacted the agency to find me, but I’m just not sure. For all I know, she could have had it all my life.

One year later, which was last summer, I took the records out and sat down with them while on the phone with my biological mother, Cindy. Really went through them, page by page. And the realization hit like a freight train to the gut. My parents have always told me that they didn’t know anything about my biological family except for my bio mother’s name, even after we reunited. My DNA tests (ancestry and 23andme) that I took years ago didn’t say I was specifically Mexican back then (it was Native North American) and only said I was a little Spanish, until recently when they had big updates and could finally pinpoint things like that better. But even when I mentioned that, my mom never said a word about the file.

I get that shock of finding out that you’re partially another ‘race’, nationality, culture, whatever you want to call it. I missed out on a lot of this, too, and I’m eager to learn. I went to my very first Day of the Dead, Dia de los Muertos, last October with my bio family; brother, sister in law, their kids, and Cindy. It was such a blast and I learned a lot. I may not have grown up with much Mexican culture anyway had I grown up in San Antonio, as my family doesn’t do the big holidays, but it would’ve been a hell of a lot more than what I did get; forced into Judaism and living with a racist father who shat on literally every other culture and skin tone imaginable. And, at least I would’ve known. The knowledge that my dad disrespected, hated, and was racist against Mexican people while knowing it’s part of my DNA and biological family is… hard to swallow.

I’m angry. I’m furious. Enraged that he tried to mold me into this little perfect, white, Jewish, cultured, gold-digging rich girl. And then threw me out when I refused to be what he wanted. It makes me ill to think that he’s hated a part of me this whole time, whether he knew this about me or not. He was genuinely interested when he met my grandma and talked to her about her past and her great grandmother, a Spanish Jew who was adopted by a Mexican family, given up by her parents because Jews were being killed in Mexico at that time (so goes the story), which is where our Spanish/Portuguese DNA comes from. He loves history of all kinds, and I know he doesn’t hate the Mexican part of me. But just the fact that I’ve heard so many racist things from him throughout my life, and now knowing my birth family is heavily populated by Mexican blood, is… disturbing.

I’ve spent a big chunk of my life wondering what I am. That’s part of adoptee life. Adoptees with closed adoptions, anyway. I was always questioning what I was made of, what countries were in my DNA. My parents knew, at least about my Mexican-American part, and said they had no idea.

This was a long ramble that spawned from someone else’s post, but these are the kinds of things that hit me while I travel through my adoption journey and learn more about the trauma adoptees go through. As I walk through and clear the fog of toxic positivity surrounding adoption. I do not blame my mom at all, let me make that clear. She had her own demons. And I’m still processing.

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