Wednesday, July 5, 2017

I am Indigenous first, Mexican second

In a time when Latinx identities are scrutinized, questioned and minimized, meeting Diana is a breath of fresh air. She is unapologetically Indigenous and she knows exactly who she is.

“I always say, I am Indigenous first, Mexican second, and then Latina. I am never Hispanic.”

Diana claims much of her identity comes from her upbringing and the fact that her father told her “No matter where you go, you will always be indigenous.” He gifted her with an unparalleled pride in who she is and where she comes from.

Diana’s parents are from the state of Oaxaca in Mexico. Her parents come from two separate regions of the state. Her mother, from the more urban and modern area and her father from the rural side. Her father’s native language is Zapotec, spoken only in the region where he is from.

Her parents met in Mexico and started their life there. But after finding out that she was pregnant, Diana’s mom made a choice. She decided that she wanted to go to the United States and start a life there with better educational opportunities for her unborn child.

So the young couple crossed the border and made the journey in hopes of a better life for their growing family.

Diana’s parents did everything possible to ensure that Diana took advantage of the opportunity they worked so hard to chase.

In elementary school, Diana barely spoke any English. Spanish was spoken at home and she was a shy student. Her grades were suffering and she wasn’t learning. So her dad took matters into his own hands. He signed up for classes at the local community college so that he could help Diana with her homework. When that wasn’t solving Diana’s academic issues, he signed HER up for classes at the college.

Diana found herself in a speech class where she was confronted with the challenge of speaking or failing. She told her dad that she didn’t want to take the classes anymore and he told her, “Fine. But you need to talk.”

And talk she did. Diana’s academic success eventually improved and she went on to a competitive charter high school where she was pushed to succeed. The rigor and workload from her high school courses prepared Diana for college. When she began at Cal State Northridge, she was ready.

Diana followed her interest and majored in anthropology and Chicano studies. When asked what made her choose these majors she states, “I think I just had to do it.”

During her high school years, Diana’s parents encouraged her to take up folklorico dancing. In 9th grade she worked with her cousins and other members of her community to start a dance group that traveled and showcased their culture all over.

Diana credits this experience as the point that made her choose anthropology and Chicano studies. With a strong foundation from her parents, she was diving deeper into her culture and she liked the feeling, so her major was easy to decide.

Yet the strong sense of pride and study of different cultures didn’t stop Diana from coming across close minded people. It was here that Diana first encountered white people who challenged her identity.

“Someone in my program refused to acknowledge that I was indigenous,” Diana explains.

She clarified to her classmate that she was indigenous to Mexico but he attempted to push it away by telling Diana that she was Mexican and that makes her Hispanic.

“But I don’t identify as Hispanic.” she states, “Indigenous first, Mexican second, Latina third, Never Hispanic.”

To Diana, it is clearly important to make that distinction. She states that claiming to be Indigenous and claiming to be Hispanic are contradictory.

To be able to make these distinctions is an ability that Diana credits to her education, her classes, and the foundation set by her parents. She learned many different words and terms that Chicano/as use to describe themselves and others. Diana’s understanding of these terms have allowed her to better identify herself and put to words exactly who she is.

So it was a mixture of these three things that have come together to create the full package that is Diana Gomez; her education, Chicano studies classes, and the solid foundation of Indigenous and Mexican Pride instilled by her parents. This mix has guided Diana through her undergraduate experience to understandings that many grown Mexican American adults have yet to grasp. Diana has a firm understanding of the education system in the United States and the fact that the spaces were not created for her as a student of color.

She first noticed this when she realized that most of her teachers were white and that there was a real lack of diversity in teaching. During her Chicano studies classes, she began learning history that was omitted from elementary and high school history classes. “Someone’s hiding something from me!” she jokes. But the reality is, Diana was able to see that the blatant omission of Mexican Americans from history books was a direct whitewashing of the curriculum. “I used to think, oh Mexican’s must have not existed during civil rights.”  

Now, Diana is taking her new and old knowledge with her as she navigates what she is going to bring to the world. After graduation, Diana got a job working with children in a nearby town. She’s not sure what the next step is, but she knows she wants to stay in the public education field and is even considering going into Educational Policy.

With the overabundance of white policy makers creating policy that directly affects but often fails to consider black and brown students, Diana’s presence will be a blessing.

Diana understands that there are certain things that marginalized people feel, but often don’t have the words to explain it. Her identity and education have not only given Diana the words to explain her experiences, but the confidence to speak about it.

In the company of Diana Gomez, you know that she will continue to speak about it.

She’s learning how to use her voice to shout her existence from the rooftops.
She’s claiming her space as an indigenous person in the United States.
She’s educating those around her simply by being.

Indigenous first.
Mexican second.
Latina third

Diana Gomez is someone you should follow if you want to see a better future growing today.

Her message to Latinas pursuing their education?

Remember where you’re from, remember who you are, that’s going to take you where you want to go.

Click below to check out pictures of this badass Educated Latina in all her Indigenous glory. Graduation photos are by photographer Fidel Gomez

"The Educated Latina campaign is designed to celebrate Latinas pursuing education in all their endeavors and to promoting a world where every Latina is inspired and empowered to seek education in college, career and beyond."

You can purchase an Educated Latina shirt by clicking the link here or the pictures on the right. All proceeds from the shirts go towards my tuition for Harvard Graduate School of Education.


Do you know an Educated Latina that should be featured? Email me at with their name and why you think their story is important to share!

Muchas Gracias!

1 comment:

  1. One should not judge the people by their origin or appearance.. every individual have different n unique persona we need to understand this and try to think and see the world differently..!