Decolonizing my identity; a work in process pt.1

Malinchismo: is a form of attraction that a person from one culture develops for another culture. It applies to all those who feel attracted to foreign cultures and disregard for their own culture (Lemos & Dantas;2010)

I have a confession; for most of my life, I was a malinchist. I was convinced that European, particularly French culture was superior to the Mexican one. I did not realize that my mind and my identity had been colonized until I left my country.  

I developed this preference by attending a French school in Mexico City. It is a private school that provides French education in Mexico under the programs of the French National Minister of Education. The curricular taught in their classrooms are exactly the same than in any other public school in France. It is a bicultural and bilingual institution with students from all around the world, whose mission is to form responsible and capable men and women to contribute to the development of the country. All of our classes are taught in French, except for languages, and students learn about French history and society. Since the school operates like any other French school in France the teachers say “we” as citizens of France, “your ancestors the Gallic” and hold students to the highest standards when it comes to the language. Although, most of the pupils are not French and their native language is something else than the one spoken at school. As they teach instructors erase the identities of their listeners, presenting an equally problematic conception of what it means to be French in the world. One could say that the LFM and their staffulty have a power-evasiveness approach (Ochoa 2013;22). Under the excuse of equality, they dismiss the impact of structural and institutional inequalities as well as systems of race and they blame the student for not studying hard enough.

Moreover, by being French the student can see the connection of their personhood and identity to the content they are learning. There is, thus, an unequal system that is only reinforced by the power-evasive approach undertaken by the school. French students, in particular, have a bigger symbolic capital. Almost as if the nationality was a resource of prestige. And to some extend it is, because the underline of this system is that being French is better; it opens more doors, a better control of the language and better opportunities.  

Sometimes, it is not even the underline, some teachers make their mission to demonstrate that France is superior to Mexico. Inflicting in the non-French an inferiority complex, and a feeling of nationality dysphoria. Because the message is inflicted upon the students since kinder garden, by high school it becomes the common sense. French supremacy, as a type of white supremacy, is then reproduced by POC students. For instance, when I was in my first year of high school (sophomore year in the US) my history teacher, a white French male, told us that “Spaniards have made us a favor by colonizing us”. We did not question this message since that was the same one that we had learned from elementary school, we took it as a reality. The system by that time does not longer need white people to reproduce white supremacy. By teaching the story of colonization from the perspective of the colonizer in a country that was once colonized, the LFM is dismissing of the impact of historical and structural forces. It ignores the sociopolitical context of Mexico. It assumes that white is neutrality and that they are the best perspective to teach history from. It silences the historical privileges of white identity and cultural practices (Ochoa 2013; 22). Because most of the teachers grew up in a mostly white context or at least in a French one, they assume that these roles do not matter. But, they do (Ochoa 2013;48). Moreover, French supremacy is also enforced by the choice of staffulty, most instructors and administrative personnel are white French citizens, even Spanish and Physical Education teachers are Francophones. It is understandable that the LFM wants to reproduce as closely the experience to go to school in the old continent, and the instructors were not bad. However, it is the hidden message it sends to Mexican students that even for teaching them their own language they need a foreigner

It took me moving 3,400 km away from Mexico in order to fall in love with my country and to begin the process of decolonization of my identity. I realized that my education, as explained by Ngugi wa Thiong’o, had annihilated my belief in my language – my French is still better than my Spanish – my history – I am oblivious to much of our past – to the point that I had started to believe about my nation as a wasteland of no achievement– I rejected my country. I would like to precise that I am not saying that everything I learned during 15 years needs to go and that it was bad. On the contrary, I am extremely grateful for the education that I received and I would not be the person that I am today if it was nor for the French educational system. However, today I employ the most powerful tool that they gave me, critical spirit, to question the system that formatted me. Now, I strive to decolonize my identity and re-build what it means to me to be Mexican, raised by European values, living in Trump’s America.  

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