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Your Story: Felipe Sanchez

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“When meeting new people, they usually do not ask me where I am from. The question that I do get asked is what part of Mexico am I from. They seem to assume that I am not from the United States and that I am from Mexico. Their assumptions frustrate me because as I stand on the same land that my ancestors called home, I am looked upon as a foreigner. When I tell them that I am originally from El Paso, Texas, many are surprised and puzzled. There seems to be this notion that just because I do not look like them that I must be from another country. They usually go on and ask if I have any family members that are living in Mexico. When I reply no, they will then ask if my parents or grandparents were from Mexico. It is at this point that my efforts are turned to educating them on US history in the American Southwest and my family’s role within it. My explanation starts with my grandfather, whose birthplace was in the New Mexico Territory in 1895, seventeen years before its statehood. I tell them that my family has deep roots in the West Texas and Southern New Mexico region long before it was part of the United States. Yet, even after explaining how I am not from Mexico and that my ancestry spreads from Texas to California, I sometimes will be asked, ‘So what are you?’ To me, this is an insulting question. I should not have to declare a label just to please them. So my response is that I am a Chicano, a Tejano, a Mexican-American, and a person on the homeland of my descent — in other words, I am an American.”

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