My name is Alma Quintana, and I have lived in Arizona for twenty years now. I am originally from the Los Angeles area. Some of the social differences I have experienced in my adult life here, being a Hispanic woman, who actually looks white, have been interesting. Due to my fair complexion and blue eyes, people assume I am white. Then they hear me speak and realize that I am indeed, a Hispanic woman. In the area where I grew up in California, this was never the case. Both my parents came from Mexico and settled in the Los Angeles area in a predominantly Hispanic community. Both my parents had status and worked to obtain their citizenship. My siblings and I were born in the United States, so that was never an issue for us.
So, growing up, surrounded by Mexican culture, no one was ever “shocked” that I wasn’t white. When my family moved here, my parents opened up two small markets where I worked as a cashier. People would come in and ask me if I spoke Spanish and when I would respond in Española, they would be surprised. They would ask “Are you sure you’re not white?” and I would just laugh. This was something that I had never experienced before. Again, because of my light skin and blue eyes. So initially, I found it very interesting.
The same thing has happened to me professionally in my adult life. I started at the Arizona Department of Education and work in the capacity of program and project specialist for several years. I currently work for the City of Phoenix as a Head Start quality assurance manager. There have been several instances where people have met me, assuming that I am white, and then realize, oh, she’s actually Hispanic. I find it humorous because sometimes they really don’t know how to react to that revelation. So, it’s funny to me, and eventually they see the humor in it as well. I can honestly say, I have never experienced any type of bias after the fact and everyone still treated me with the same level of respect.
All in all, Arizona has treated me very well and I am extremely happy, and proud to call this state my home. Despite the subtle cultural and social difference I have experienced, living here has been an amazing experience.