As a child, I thought I was white. Growing up, my classmates were all white, I became proud of my Irish heritage and it’s how I bonded with friends who also had Irish names. It wasn’t until I was about 11 years old that I started to recognize that I was different. Of course, I knew my mother was Mexican, but I didn’t know what that meant for me.
I spent everyday with my Grandma and Grandpa Rivera and played with my cousins, my best friends. From this time up to my early twenties, I experienced frustration from people’s words and actions regarding people of color. When someone criticized a person because their skin wasn’t white, I felt hurt for my mother and her family. Was I allowed to be personally offended? Am I white or am I brown?
I remember every year from 1st -12th grade, I had to take the Iowa Test of Basic Skills. Under ethnicity, there were ovals to fill in next to what race you are. White, Black, Hispanic, Asian …. Other? In my younger years, I would raise my hand the first not certain which circle to fill in. Do I choose one? Was I allowed to fill in two boxes? Or am I other? Through those twelve years, I believe I filled in the oval for only white, other, both white and Hispanic, and in high school I chose Hispanic.
As I have discovered more of who I am as a young artist, I’ve learned were my heart lies. My interests are in Civil Rights leaders and people who stood up for rights. The documentation of the civil right movement by Charles Moore and the work of Gordon Parks really struck something in me. I wanted to bring up social issues through photographs.
“My Familia” is a project produced in both book form and as a series of photographs. The images and texts were produced from my own internal struggles regarding two families with very different ethnicities – Irish and Mexican. I photographed many of my family members and afterwards I had a small conversation with them about the work and how being biracial has influenced my art. Then, I had them write me something after stating the following: “My project is about our Irish- Mexican family and that dynamic quality in our relationship. What memories would you like to share? It could go back as far as my parents’ wedding and up to now. Or, if you have something in mind that you would like to share please do.”