Hughes News

New Mexico 's Governor Bill Richardson could very well be the next "Hispanic" President. That's what all the chatter is about since Richardson announced his Presidential Campaign Exploratory Committee. It got me thinking about racial and ethnic identity and how two people with very similar backgrounds could present and see themselves in totally different lights. I’m a good example. My parents are Hispanic; I am as Hispanic--if not MORE so--than most of the people in our society claiming to be. But I guarantee you if I ran for President, no one from an Hispanic rights or heritage group would take credit for me. Why? Because I am not "Hispanic" enough.

In other words, I have always labeled myself as an American first. That is who I am. Yes, my father was born in Mexico along with three generations before him. My mother was born in Nicaragua and still has a heavy accent. I spoke Spanish AND English at home growing up. Most of my family still lives south of the border. But my identity has never really been with my Hispanic heritage. Is that bad? I never thought so. But it IS amazing how many people come up to me and say things like "You don't LOOK Hispanic"! That's one of the top things people say to me when they first find out about my ethnic background. It's second only behind "I thought you'd be taller"! So many people think I should talk a certain way, present myself a certain way, or vote a certain way because of my bloodline. But my acceptance of who I am seems to disappoint only them. They are the ones who feel let down.

If I don't fit the "Hispanic" profile, my children certainly do not. They largely have light hair and fair skin. One of my sons has red hair and blue eyes. Would HE be considered an Hispanic President or anything else? Would anyone consider HIM for an Hispanic scholarship down the road? Will the affirmative action proponents be knocking on his door? My only hope is that it his Hispanic heritage does not become of principal importance to who he is as a person.

From a very young age I have been told by people to make the most of my background, to let it "work" to my advantage. I even had an old boss tell me to change my name to something that SOUNDED more Hispanic. Something "less blue blooded" if I remember correctly. That if I changed my name to something like Alberto Gomez de la Parra, it might help my career down the road. After all, there's no shortage of white sounding guys on the air. Others accused me of stabbing my Latino ancestors in the back, of being ashamed of my lineage. Nothing could be further from the truth. Well, except for maybe the guilt that some of my distant cousins might have partaken in human sacrifices on the tops of pyramids. That would be pretty shameful.

If Governor Richardson wins, he will become our Nation's first Hispanic President. If I were to win, the same label would not be applied. That is why today I am NOT considered one of the few Hispanics (can YOU name any?) hosting a national radio show for a major network. I am just a regular, tax paying American who struggles with a mountain of bills and responsibilities like millions of others. And to be honest with you, I wouldn't have it any other way. I guess if I really wanted to milk my heritage, I could say Adios instead of Goodbye. But I won't. Don't be too let down.