这个墨西哥人是谁 (Who is this Mexican person)

Coming into Shanghai, I had a feeling that I would easily stand out not only as a foreigner, but as a Hispanic. However, I did not anticipate the Chinese people’s limited knowledge about Mexicans. Moreover, I never expected to be one of the first Mexicans that the Chinese locals have ever met.

Going around the city of Shanghai wearing my Mexican flag bandana, it seems like people knew of Mexico but not how people from Mexico looked, dressed, or behaved. Some people are so intrigued by my presence that they come up to me and ask ‘我可以跟你拍一张照片吗?’ (Can I take a picture with you?) Others simply talk about me to their friends as they try to figure out who and what I am. Usually, I cannot understand the conversation that takes place about me since my Chinese level is still low and the Shanghai people speak too fast for me to make out all the words.

However, there is one conversation between a mom and her child that I remember where I was able to follow and understand some of what was being said about me. One day, I got on the bus headed towards Jiangwan Stadium which was where we were going to meet up with our professor 邵老师. A few stops along the way, a mother got on with her 5-6 year old son. They situated themselves next to me on the bus. The boy looked up at me with startled eyes and began questioning his mother…’他是美国人吗?’ (Is he American?) The mother responded to him ‘他不像他的美国朋友. 他可能是美国人.'(He does not look like his American friends around him. He could be American.) The boy then asked, ‘他是白色还是黑色? (Is he white or black?). The mother responded, 他的皮肤比白人太黑,也比黑人太白. 他都不是(He is too dark to be white and too light to be black. He is neither.) She then proceeded to explain to him that regardless of my skin color he should not be afraid of me, however, by this time my stop had arrived and so I had to get off the bus and could not listen to the last things she had to say nor the child’s response.

Having understood this conversation, I began to get a better understanding to how the Chinese locals perceived and behaved around me. To some, I am some sort of ‘phenomenon’ that they may never see again so they desire a picture as a sort of memorabilia or proof of my existence. To others, I am a ‘true foreigner’ which makes them uneasy (not in a bad way) since they have no idea who I or what I am (which is understandable), so they do not know how to approach me. Needless to say, these encounters provide me with a perfect opportunity to introduce myself to the locals. Right now, I can only tell them the basics, I am Mexican, I was born in Mexico, I live in the United States and go to school at Davidson College, etc. Hopefully as I continue living in Shanghai and exposing myself to the Chinese language, I will be able to tell them in more detail about Mexicans and Mexican culture.

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