Finding your strength in your heritage.
Column by: McKenna Frausto Bailey
With Hispanic Heritage month coming to a close, I wanted to reflect on something new I’ve come to embrace about my Mexican-American heritage. My family on my mother’s side is from Mexico. During the Civil Rights movement, my grandmother faced a lot of racism because she’s Hispanic and speaks Spanish. My mother doesn’t know Spanish since my grandmother didn’t want to teach it to her, and as a result, I didn’t grow up speaking much Spanish either.
Now, I can speak Spanish (or rather Tex-Mex), but I’m not fluent yet. I love my Hispanic heritage because Spanish is a beautiful language and there are so many mysteries about Mexican history that fascinate me. I love calling myself Tejano or Tex-Mex. I feel that it’s a part of my identity.
Recently, while scrolling on twitter I came across an interesting term from Buzzfeed; ‘Pocha Concha’. I recognized ‘Concha’ as it translates to ‘shell’ in English and is also used to describe my favorite Hispanic treat, Pan Dulce (sweet bread), aka Conchas. However, I didn’t understand ‘Pocha’, or ‘Pocho’ if you’re a boy.
According to Maya Murillo (@mayainthemoment), a Buzzfeed producer who coined the term ‘Pocha Concha’ on their YouTube show Pero Like,
“[A Pocha/o is] a derisive term for people who are whitewashed in America but who have Mexican descent. It basically means your Spanish is bad, you’re a 4th generation Mexican-American, and it’s used to offend someone by telling them they aren’t Latin enough.”
The Britannica Encyclopedia defines a Pocha/o as, “A derogatory term typically used by native-born Mexicans to describe U.S. born Mexicans that don’t speak Spanish. They aren’t considered either Mexican or American.” Pocha has much of the same meaning as ‘Chicano’, but less political.
However, there is more to the story. Maya continues, “So I took that word, reclaimed it, and combined it with my favorite dessert and now it’s a term of endearment to describe love for others and self-love.”
I fell in love with this immediately. While some might still see the term (Pocha), as racist, I think it’s a good thing what Maya has done by turning a historically derogatory word into something we can take honor in.
I welcome the term, Pocha Concha. It’s a way for us Mexican-American’s to find some of our identity in our heritage and embrace our culture. It makes us unique. It strengthens us. Knowing our roots and our culture gives us a powerful sense of self. Just because someone is a 4th generation Mexican-American, or has a bad Spanish accent, doesn’t make them any less Latino. Maya emphasizes these ideas in her final statement.
“So go ahead, use Pocha Concha. Use it, and use it proudly. Don’t let anyone else tell you that you’re not enough. Take control of it. Be you. Be empowered by it.”
Now every time I see a Concha it reminds me of my self-empowerment; that I’m reclaiming my culture and learning more about my heritage. Thanks to Maya, I have a special phrase to remind me of my journey.