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What is a Pocha / Pocho?
Pocha or Pocho is negative term used to shame Mexican Americans for not being Mexican enough. You’re a sellout for embracing American culture. It’s a really offensive way to tell people that they aren’t “Mexican enough.”
The video below gives a great definition of the word. People will always tell you you’re not enough of one or the other. You’re not Mexican enough, you’re not American enough. This is something that a lot of us go through. We don’t really “fit” anywhere.
I grew up in Laredo, Texas and moved North to Michigan when I was about 12. I didn’t know that everyone wasn’t bicultural like me. It was just natural to celebrate both cultures. I didn’t even realize they were more than one culture.
When I moved to Michigan, I saw a lot of hate and negativity. I didn’t fit in with many people because people couldn’t understand biculturalism. My closest friends were all Puerto Ricans from NYC. Being bicultural was nothing new to them. They identified like I did…as being both. And they even had a word for it…Nuyorican.
I couldn’t believe it! I grew up in South Texas, we had a word too…Tejano! Finally, I found someone who could relate to my experience. It was a huge eye opener and a big part of how I came to embrace my identity through those difficult teen years.
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To me, the word Pocho has a similar connotation to the N word. Embracing the word is a way of getting past the negative connotations of the word, but for me, I can’t embrace it. It’s too hurtful. Instead, I choose to embrace the word that includes both sides of my heritage…Tejano.
This is who I am. I Mexican and American…and I’m Texan too. And it’s a word that I could call my familia in Texas. I would never be able to say Pocho around my family without hurting someone. I can’t use that word with the people I love.
I understand where she’s coming from. She’s trying to embrace the word and make it her own. But for me, I cannot embrace anything that has hurt so many people.
I think it’s great that she is finding her identity and finding a way to embrace her culture. As a Mexican American, most people don’t understand or appreciate our bicultural heritage. But the truth is, it’s the one thing that really makes us unique. It’s very empowering to know your roots and culture. For someone so young to wake up to the realization, “I’m going to be me, like it or not” is awesome.
Watch the Pocha Concha video from Pero Like
Ricardo Patiño is a proud Tejano, writer and podcaster, who shares stories about his childhood in Laredo, and life in South Texas and the Rio Grande Valley.