Personal identity is a finicky thing. It is hard to define and constantly evolves while at the same time remaining central to one’s life. Everyone in life is constantly looking for how their identity affects their lives, whether it be ethnic, religious, cultural, or otherwise.
Personally, I rethink my identity as a Jewish, Hispanic American at every stage in life, and it’s how I grow as a person. Jewish and Hispanic are not two identities that many people connect, and it gets even more complicated when one considers skin tone. My own skin is white, given to me from my Argentine parents, which means I do not “look” Hispanic. As a result, I often felt like I had to prove myself as Hispanic. As I entered my final semester in college, I had been thinking a lot about my own identity and how that will change once I am on my own in the world, so to speak, separated from the community I have spent the last four years building.
In the midst of this identity crisis (if you could call it that) was an offer to participate in a trip to Mexico with Hillels of Georgia, sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, for a week of volunteer work with Project TEN, a project of the Jewish Agency for Israel. When one is offered a free trip to Mexico for a week, it’s usually disregarded as a scam. However, after meeting with the project leader, Merit Pinker, I realized my assumptions could not be farther from the truth. So after running it by my parents, I quickly booked a flight for Mexico City and planned for an exciting, eye opening experience.
There were many reasons this was a great opportunity for me. As a senior at the University of Georgia studying Political Science and International Affairs, this experience would offer me a real-world perspective on issues I would learn about in the classroom. As someone who loves to help others, volunteering at the school gave me a chance to connect with children who are different from me. As someone who is constantly exploring his Jewish identity, this great opportunity allowed me to learn from other Jewish people from around the world and engage in thoughtful discussion. But perhaps more personally for me, I felt this was a perfect chance to explore my own Hispanic identity. As I mentioned, my family is from Argentina, debatably the farthest Latin American nation from Mexico in many different respects. In that spirit, I felt that this opportunity would allow me a chance to look at other Hispanic Jewish communities. In doing so, I could learn more about myself and my two identities both independently and as a duo.