Sunday, December 07, 2014

Cultural Chameleon

Every so often I'm reminded of the unique ability I have to inhabit different spaces. It's an ability a lot of people I know have. I was at a comic book art show held at an art gallery that is located in the middle of the callejones. As I looked down into the streets from the third floor of this gallery, I felt a kind of slap come across me. I'm so use to going from one space to another that I rarely think about what that means in terms of culture, social norms, and privileges.

While I can be in these different spaces, I get looks from of curiosity and bewilderment, as if I don't belong there. I've been living like this for as long as I can remember, but it wasn't until college that I was able to aptly put a name behind it. Nepantla is a Nahuatl word meaning 'in between' or 'the space in the middle.' There's a lot of other meanings attached to that word in Chicano/a academic spaces, but I I'm not attached to it.

It's easy for someone like me to gravitate to a word like that, whether it is in Nahuatl or any other language. My life is a representation of 'living in between' due to my immigration status and the spaces I inhabit in my day to day life. For all the existential quandaries I've had over the years, I can't imagine my life being any other way. The fact that I can go from talking to someone about their cat art to being able to connect with a street vendor with a few simple words is price less.

I have the privilege of being part of a culture that traces its history thousands of years. I live in a community that creates are that connects the present to the past. I work at a job that connects issues across classes, races, and cities. I transition countless of times on a daily basis and I forget that. Like water, I take the shape of the container I am in, but I am still water. I can be solid, liquid or a gas, but I am still water.

That's why I don't like limiting myself to just one single identity when I can be part of many. It is in that cross pollination that new ideas are born. Mash ups of Lucha Libre and Star Wars. Eastern philosophy and hip-hop. Being Americanized yet not being a US citizen. I forget how good I have it when it comes to being able to participate, understand, and love the works of other cultures while still finding threads that connect it to mine.

When I make connects between cultures, stories, art etc I get this feeling in my chest. A feeling of discovery and to tell everyone I know about it. Over the years, that feeling has stayed the same but my wanting to share with anyone else has not. I tried sharing these connections with others but few get it and fewer share the same passion for it that I do. As such, I keep it to myself, which pains me at times. Here I am finding connections between anime and my working class experiences and I can share them with no one. No one else to talk to about them and flush it out even further.

From the outside it just looks like I'm obsessed with pop-culture, cartoons, and cats. That fine. The growth of others is not my responsibility, nor will I go out of my way to make those connections for someone. Like true great art, it is never fully appreciated by the masses for what it is. As I'm getting older, I'm learning to let go of this want that pushes me to share what I love because no one else will understand it. I'll just keep it for myself in the space in-between.