Dangerous Border Crossers: The Artist Talks Back

By Guillermo Gómez-Peña | Go to book overview

The Dangers of Being a Biracial Kid

I’ve got a 9-year-old cholito son named Guillermo Emiliano Gómez-Hicks. He’s blond, blue-eyed, and perfectly bilingual. His mom Emily, my ex-wife, is Anglo-American, and dad, servidor, as Mexican-looking as they come. Guillermito is a true border citizen. He lives in San Diego with mom and spends his vacations in Mexico City with me. However, since he was 3, he was forced to learn the bitter lessons of being both a biracial kid and a “white” Latino in contemporary California.

When he was in pre-school, in a mostly Anglo classroom, inevitably after every vacation, his teachers would complain that “these trips were making him violent and rebellious.” They tried to discourage me from taking him down to “dangerous Mexico.” One teacher used to greet him every morning by saying “tu erres muchio muy malo,” the only phrase she knew in Spanish.

His first truly rough experience took place in July of 1993, while I was spending a weekend with him in San Diego. We were having lunch at a restaurant when two nosy women sitting next to us decided that because I was dark-skinned and Mexican-looking I couldn’t possibly be his father. When my son and I left the restaurant, unaware of what was happening, the ladies wrote down the license plate number of the taxi and called the police. A three-hour manhunt unfolded in search of “the Mexican kidnapper of an unidentified Anglo kid.” San Diego police cars and helicopters were immediately dispatched, and the border was temporarily closed.1 A few hours later, my son and I were strolling down the

1 A detailed description of this incident appears in my book New World Border under the title “Border Thriller”.

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