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This diary is a self reflective one as diaries traditionally once were. But I think it is kinda fun to have other people read it so here goes.
Yesterday while talking to a woman I have seen once a year while she delivered wood for the fireplace. She asked me a question that I often get in various forms.  She asked, "Are you Argentinean?" I laughed and said,"No, I am Mexican American from Texas." Her response was, "oh yes Mexican."  We continued chatting.  Then later on in the day, a butcher at the Safeway asked me right out, "Are you Hispanic?" I said," yes, I am from Texas." He had a Spanish accent so I spoke to him in Spanish.  But these responses were based on each one saw when they looked at me. I am short, brown and had big brown eyes.  However, there is something about me that people just can't put their finger on.  

 I have this effect on people, they want to know, "Who the hell are you?" I get this look everywhere I go, except my home town in San Antonio. There I just blend in like many other San Antonians.  But this, "Who the hell are you reaction" is one I encounter frequently. Once when I lived in Ontario, a pretty East Indian girl was the shop-keep at the small grocery store near my home there. Looking bored she took money from the person before me. Once I stepped up to the counter her eyes widened a bit, she smiled and then she said, "Are you Indian?" I said no and asked about her.  She explained how her family had come to Canada from Uganda.  Again in Ontario I had a short Maltese fellow come on to me because I was "Mediterranean" and he was tired of white girls. Huh? Strange come on line, I never had heard before.
    Soon upon arriving at our current home, I was asked in two separate occasions. "Are you Egyptian?"(one was an anthropology professor)  I just smiled and said, "No...." But then I wondered, was it my bangs?? I had straight across the front of my forehand bang like Elizabeth Taylor in that movie Cleopatra.  Another time I was traveling in South Africa on our way to the Kalahari when we stopped to get gas. There the small honey colored man that pumped the gas gave me that wide eyed, " who the hell are you?" look.  He to my eyes was a Bushman/San person and I knew he was puzzled my my appearance.   "Small check, brown check, but there is something about her not quite right."  
    Then another time traveling through India, it was sooooo hot I wore an indian salwar kamis and face covered I quite well blended in.  Back in Alberta, the First Nations people. the Blood tribe women society inducted me into their society and smeared my face with red paint and gave me an native name( a great honor). Now these folks are real tall!  The big hoop dancer smiled at me and said, "I know you are from the tortilla tribe!"  I know what they see when they see me.  But, still who the hell am I?  
     On trip to Mexico sitting in a university president's home, he smiled at me broadly as I told him I was from Texas and immediately declared that he could see from my smile that I had good teeth of the Nortenos. hmmmm?  There was shock and disbelief from my students in Buffalo, when i told them I am not Puerto Rican (okay, I had a spiral perm at the time).   Another time a woman at a reception came straight at me and asked, "Are you from the Amazon?" (professor's wife)
    But then came the biggest shock of all.  I was surfing around the genealogy forums looking up my grandfather's surname and come up on a comment that the name is Sephardic.  At first I though nothing of it but as I continued to look at the other names of my family branches I kept finding the same comments from different people how this name was on the list of Sephardic names by the Holy See and then that lead me to follow up those leads that lead to the story of  Luis Carvajal.

It seems that although a Converso (Converted Jew), he was allowed:

To pacify and colonize the new territory, Carabajal was allowed 100 soldiers and 60 married laborers, accompanied by their wives and children. It is safe to assume that a number of these early colonists were Spanish Jews, who, under the guise of Maranos, had hoped to escape persecution and find prosperity in the New World. In this expectation they were disappointed, for within a decade after their settlement a score of them were openly denounced and more or less severely punished for Judaizing. In 1590 there seems to have been an extensive colony of them in Mexico.

Monterrey still bears the customs of his Jewish heritage, particularly the cuisine (cabrito, semitas), popular Sephardic family names (like Garza), and some local festivities. His nephew, Luis de Carabajal the younger, left a memoir, letters and account of the inquisition proceedings against the extended Carabajal family.

Turns out all my family branches came from Monterrey and the surrounding area. Looking at the various family lineages the same names repeatedly intermarried with one another.  There has been a movement of self discovery by several persons of Hispanic descent that now are convinced that the people of Monterrey, Albuquerque and San Antonio are centuries old Sephardic settlements.  Who knew??  As a Mexican American kid in Texas, American history started with the Pilgrims.  I am now discovering who I am at the ripe old age of 55.  Do I know all this for sure pertains to my famiy? I don't know!  Add all this to the fact that I am all of four feet seven inches and you can imagine the looks I get.

So, in the light of all this racist illegal immigrant stuff and the Jenna six issue.  I offer my diary as an antidote/anecdote to you.  Many of us have come to realize that we are human and that humans have traveled and migrated around the world many times over and over for many reasons and to many distant lands. We encounter ourselves in different forms.  As I used to tell my students, all the features that humans have are pretty much adaptive for the area they originally came from. Our different forms and colors  are successful versions of Humans.
I have learn to love myself for what I am..... a human and a mystery to be discovered.

Originally posted to TexMex on Sat Sep 22, 2007 at 12:51 PM PDT.

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