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Stories from Night Shift: Hidden Ethnicity

To preface this story, I have to give a slight background. I was born in Puerto Rico to a family that they were born and raised there. My mother’s great-great-grandfather came straight from Spain to my small island. Until my parents, no one had really left the island. I have been raised in a family filled with proud Hispanic heritage. We celebrate Hispanic holidays, speak Spanish, follow almost all customs from our tiny island. But when you look at me, you would never know. I was born with pale white skin. The only “Hispanic” trait I possess is my curly hair. Most Americans I have met do not see my hair and think Hispanic. The only time this has happened, I met an extremely racist woman. Other than that, people are shocked when they hear that I can speak Spanish. Their shock soon turns into fascination. Every single time I am met with a look of confusion and fascinations “oh wow, speak Spanish to me,” ” tell me something in Spanish,” “you don’t look Hispanic,” “I can see it now, you have a Hispanic body”…and more.

To carry on to the story the other day, I was at work. I was working second shift, and the day was seconds away from ending. It was about 11pm when these two guys came down and handed me their keys. Over the last few weeks, I have grown to understand this as “my key won’t work, please fix.” I rarely ever speak Spanish to these guys for reasons I will discuss in another post. I fixed the key, but only a few minutes later, they were back again. Same routine over and over. This happened four times before I finally decided to go upstairs and see what was happening. Long story short, their door ran out of batteries. I noticed one of the men pull out his phone to use google translate. Before he wasted his time, I spoke Spanish to him. He was shocked and then happy. Began asking me questions on how I knew Spanish and where I had learned it. When I told him I was from Puerto Rico, he began singing to me. He sang the most popular song dedicated to my little island. It was strange, yet surprising. I am not used to people caring much about my island. Usually, it is seen as a problem that most Americans want to go away.

Fast forward to me running up and down the sitars a few times getting supplies to fix the door. It was a real workout, and I still do not understand why I didn’t take the elevator…at least to go up. I ended up having to change the batteries on the door and then reprogramming the door itself. This took about 30 minutes. Within these 30 minutes, more of the men staying in the room appeared. At this point, I once again stopped speaking Spanish. Although we really didn’t talk much once, I began working on the door. Soon enough, the door was fixed and opened. I told the guys to call me if they needed anything else in English and walked back to the stairs. It was at this moment I heard one of the men who had just shown up mention my ass. The older gentleman with whom I was speaking Spanish with told the younger man to “shut up, she knows Spanish.” To which the new man gave the most amazing and purest response, “Sh*t, Who the f*ck knows Spanish in the mountains.”


Published by Kathrine

Emergency Room Nurse spends too much time thinking, reflecting, and over-analyzing every detail of life. Hoping to one day figure it all out.

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