Karina Gonzalez

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Karina Gonzalez, a member of the Class of 2017 at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, describes the move that she and her family made from Chihuahua, Mexico to Texas when she was in elementary school. Her time at an International School and her year at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have allowed her to expand her international interests. She was involved with Canto Libre, the Latino a cappella group at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, until the group separated in the Spring 2014 semester. She explains her immigrant experience in the United States, and how music allows her to connect to her roots in Mexican culture, although she is now an American citizen. She would like her love of music and song to be a part of her daily life now; though she spent little time investing in her musical interests when living in Texas, this spark was reignited while attending school in New Mexico. Gonzalez also explains how her appearance drastically changed her migration experience. She has hopes of traveling and living abroad in the future, learning new languages, and keeping up her singing.



Kimiko Nicole LeNeave: It is Sunday, April 13th, 2014. My name is Nicole LeNeave; I’ll be interviewing Karina. We’re at the Student Union on the University of North Carolina’s campus in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. This is for the Latino New Roots History Program, through an APPLES Global Course offered here at the University. So, just to begin, if you can give a brief family history and personal history; kind of that move from Mexico to the United States.
Karina Gonzalez: I guess I’ll start from the beginning. I was born in 1993—November, 1993 and I was born in Chihuahua, Mexico which is the biggest state of Mexico. It’s in the North, south of Texas. And I actually only lived there for about three years before moving to Durango, which is a state south of Chihuahua. It’s about six hours away. I was there until third grade, and then I moved to the United States—Austin Texas. But I guess family history wise… My entire family lives in Mexico, lives in Chihuahua. My dad comes from a family, they used to be eleven. Two passed away at birth and one later in life. So, he was seventh out of eighth. And my mom is also seventh out of eighth. So two huge families and they both are from Chihuahua, so it was really convenient for the wedding day. Then, so yeah, most of them are still there. A couple of them moved to the capital but most of them are still in that city, so that’s the city that we visit.
KNL: And which city is that?
KG: Chihuahua, Chihuahua.
KNL: Oh okay!
KG: Then, I moved to Austin in 2003. I lived there for, well I don’t know how many years, I don’t want to do math right now. In 2011—well I did elementary, middle, and part of highs school there. Then in 2011, I got a scholarship to go to an international school in New Mexico, so I finished school there. That was something different, regardless, even though it was a different state, that whole area used to be Mexico. So I am very used to the arid climate of Chihuahua, because Chihuahua is known for its mountains, same with New Mexico and Texas as well. And, now it’s closer to the present; I’m here. In 2013, I entered UNC, my third state to live in in the United States, so—it’s cool.
KNL: So then how did you decided to come to UNC, then? If you had different school options.
KG: For this particular, my, the school that I was accepted to is called United World College. And what this guy, Shelby Davis, basically he funds the, he gives full tuition for the high school to all of the American people who apply through the American committee. And I applied through that. And then, once those people graduate—there are thirteen of these schools around the world, so once they graduate from one of those schools—
KNL: Was this is where you went to High School?
KG: This is, so, we’re all at the thirteen different schools all over the world. And then when they graduate and try to make a decision about coming to a university, he has this “Davis List” which is a list of 99 colleges and universities where he says I will pay ten thousand to twenty thousand dollars, that’s a scholarship. That’s just having gone to this school. It’s because he feels that there’s particular schools that follow the UWC Mission, which is—it’s so engrained to me—“it’s to provide, use education as a force, to united peoples, nations, and cultures for peace and a sustainable future. And, UNC was on the list. I mean, I only applied to schools on that list because it was an automatic scholarship, essentially. But from my options the other one’s were too far north. Because I didn’t want to stay in Texas because—UT is right by. I know a lot of people at UT, but I wanted something to be with people that I didn’t know at all and UNC had that. I did like sports; or I do like having that rivalry. I mean, I was, you know— So I just like the fact that people like being here. So it was good weather, good spirit, kind of a mix. And also, my school was 200 people, this is huge but it’s closer to the real world. It’s been hard, I’m not going to lie, but I like it. I feel grown up.
KNL: It is definitely a transition! So I guess, like historically speaking, Texas and New Mexico, and it’s part of the States. So how has it different living in that part of the country, from that perspective of being Mexican American, and now living in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
KG: It’s definitely, well I thought about that because in Texas you see a bunch of Mexican’s and in New Mexico as well. In New Mexico, maybe a even more so, because “a” the name I guess you have a lot of leftover, well not “left over,” well yeah, leftover and a lot of influence, hey have a lot of Spanish. One thing that bothers me—this is a side note—but like everyone in New Mexico if you asked them if have Spanish—I mean, Mexican heritage (which they totally did) they would say “No, it’s Spanish.” It’s just—ugh. I don’t know. There’s a bit of a stigma being Mexican on that part of the border. They do not have a good reputation. And here, I find that since there is less, there is less of—I mean, like I don’t think my friends know that many Mexicans, or if they do it’s because of their last name. They were probably raised here, so it’s been…I have definitely noticed that there is less than in Texas. Even just from numbers. You know, I did look at what percentage of what race at UT-Austin, I’d say like at least 20% Hispanic. Where here it is seven or maybe less. So, I did expect that, but. There’s more here than you think. You have to look, but I have found some, so that’s good.
KNL: So then, even backing up to when you were talking about your experience in the international school, what was that kind of like? Because you were basically with all people who were immigrants, right?
KG: Yes. So it was 200 students. And since this campus is in the U.S., 25% had to be representing the U.S. But this is where, I think, they kind of cheat a little bit because people like me who are not “fully American” there were a ton of those. So I counted as an American, but we had Turkish-American, Ukrainian-American, Colombian-American. So it’s just, it was still a very, which I guess that’s what the U.S. is now. That was cool. So there were 25% of those. So around 50. And then the rest added up to 80 or 81 nationalities represented. It was so cool. You couldn’t room from someone from your same region. My first year roommate was from Latvia and my second year roommate was from Mauritius. So it was just, it was a really incredible experience and for me, it was very nerve-racking at first because I still very much identity with Mexico, but I was going to have to represent Texas. That’s what it says on my nametag. I went through the American Committee. I did look at the Mexican Committee, but it would have required going to Mexico City and do some interviews there and I just couldn’t. Plus, they had more spaces for Americans because the Committee has more money. So, I was like “okay!” And it was nerve racking because there were some Mexicans from the Mexican Committee and so I thought “Oh are they not going to accept me? Ugh, like I’m Mexican still but it’s been a while.” And what was really cool was that they totally—at that school people “get it”. I mean, I wasn’t the only one who had different backgrounds. There was an Irish guy who lived in Singapore; he represented Singapore. Different mixtures. The Netherlands and Singapore. Iraq and Denmark, but he represented Denmark. The other nationality or other identity is still so present that you can’t really deny people that and people get it because that’s how everyone kind of is. That’s how it works now. And, so of course they were so welcoming. With them, I celebrated Mexican Holidays, did Mexican things, watched soccer together, and things like that. And one thing that I really liked about it, because I feel that it Texas I didn’t really get to have the teenage Latin American experience because we moved when I was like ten. I didn’t get to go out, and if I ever went it out it wouldn’t be Latin music it would be club music, but for the U.S. So at this school, I took the Spanish A-level class which is where the native Spanish speakers, like it was the class for native speakers.
KNL: So was it kind of like an English class in the States? Yeah.
KG: And we’d read literature and things like that, but it was cool because it puts the students through a filter to where only the native speakers are there. So that’s where we became kind of like a family. You have Uruguay, Venezuela, Spain, Guatemala, Chile—what else did we have? Even Brazil! The Brazilian, well she was only there for like a couple of weeks because she tried but she didn’t really speak Spanish that well. But, Peru. So that’s—it was through them that we became close. I am, like, so grateful for having had them because we would have our own little parties and kind of like had a window into what an adolescence would have been in Latin America. And I realized that I totally can identity with that, and that’s where I feel really comfortable despite not having had that growing up or when I was in high school. This was towards the end of high school, and I actually had to do an extra year to go to this school. But, you know, just traditions and songs and dance moves and just like, I feel like I would be pretty okay to go out in Latin America just from having interacted with them. So, I’m, well that’s one of the best things, coming out of that school I feel more sure of how to balance the two. I mean, you can’t just shun the U.S. because that’s totally had an effect on me, but I also kind of pay respects to the other part that is still there and very important to me.
KNL: Okay, so to kind of focus it, like, a little more with—because you were talking about music, even mentioned it just now—how do you think that has kind of, or has it, tied you to Mexico and Latin America? Being in the United States and having that part of that identity, do you think it has done that? Or not?
KG: I think music, yes. My family is very, especially my dad’s side, is very musical. We always do karaoke. But it’s not like crappy karaoke. My aunt is amazing; they are really good singers. And actually, my cousin took years off after graduating to try to get out there, and he’s currently a backup singer for Juan Gabriel, who is like, he’s pretty well known. So music has always been there. When I was in Mexico, when I was there it was the time of Brittany Spears, Christiana Aguilera. I remember, there’s home videos of me singing to those songs, but I didn’t know English. You’d see that that was what I’d listen to, even though I didn’t understand it. Then when I moved to the U.S., I started to actually appreciate more the music in Spanish. Especially, Mexico has really good artists. Or I grew to really like Spanish lyrics. If you were to translate them into English, they would be super cheesy. But in Spanish I think they’re beautiful. You have really, in Spanish you’d say—but they’re so cheesy, so like… Reik, Camilla, Sin Bandera, Jesse y Joy. Through the music in Spanish, I kind of realize what I like most about music. I appreciate voice, first. You have Marc Anthony who has an amazing voice.
KNL: And you’re a singer, so—
KG: Voice first, then lyrics, then beat. So, I do keep up with which new music comes out of Mexico. And it’s a family thing. My entire family is very up to date with what’s up. And even party music, like I used to kind of push it aside when I was growing up but of course that was before I went out, but now that I go out of course I do appreciate Don Omar and Daddy Yankee. They have fun beats, but just for that specific setting. What else can I add?
KNL: So I guess you were talking about the lyrics and that kind of thing. Are there certain memories that you have like connecting to music since you have been in the states or even when you were in Chihuahua still?
KG: Memories? Like, what do you mean by memories?
KNL: I don’t know, so like maybe if this occurs for you, if you have a song that is attached to a memory or an artist.
KG: Oh, well, I guess you can say that for any—if they played it at a particular moment. So my elementary school in Mexico put on shows. I mean, they do that here as well. And the song that they, that we were preparing for before I moved was Kilometros or Cientos de Kilometros by Sin Bandera. And it’s such a perfect song because it talks about distance, and I didn’t know that I was moving until—I never actually got to perform it. And in Mexico as well, like even when I was little I sang. I just, I remember singing in an auditorium at like the Christmas show. I was out of tune at one point—I remember it clearly, but. [laughter]. I sang in Mexico. I didn’t sing as much in Texas, but like I try to keep singing. I sang in New Mexico, and I’m trying to keep singing here.
KNL: How have you kind of kept up with that here? Like at UNC, even.
KG: So, here. It’s been hard because I joined the Hispanic a cappella group, but it broke up. It broke up second semester, so kind of thing. But I might try out for other A cappella groups next year.
KNL: Yeah!
KG: But actually, I just, I recently performed at a luncheon, which was raising funds for a clinic that provides services to Latinos, underpriviledged Latinos in Durham. And that was so fun because they were happy to hear a song in Spanish—I sang in Spanish. Then, after the show, this lady stopped me and was like “hey, I don’t know if you’ve heard of the program” it’s called like Hola North Carolina—Hola NC. It’s a local show, a local channel. And so the lady was like “let’s put you on the show”. So, I’m excited.
KNL: That’s so awesome! So when will that be?
KG: Well, I leave on the seventh, so before then, but I was checking out their channel and they highlight local Latinos.
KNL: Is it like a TV show, or a radio show?
KG: I think it’s TV. But I have no idea. I’m just excited because who knows? But hopefully I can sing on the show; it would be cool. And, go from there. It was so cool because there were so many Latinos there and they really appreciated it. I sang La Playa. But they were just so happy, and I was happy to sing. Because I don’t think my voice sounds as good in English as it does in Spanish. I guess, I think it sounds to nasal-y.
KNL: People do really sound different in different languages, though.
KG: But yeah.
KNL: That’s really fun though. Aw, I’m really excited for you! That you get to do that!
KG: I’m nervous but yeah. Like what are they going to ask me? I really hope that it’s singing because I don’t want to talk. Next year I will definitely try out for some other a cappella groups.
KNL: So then do you think that there’s other ways that you’ve been, at UNC, that you’ve gotten involved with the Latin community?
KG: It’s been different, just cause UNC is very big where as, at my old school, there was only a couple of us. We’d celebrate Independence Day together, or we would… we went and had parties for everyone. And in Mexico, apparently, it’s a Mexican thing, I didn’t know. We sing “Las Mañeritas” as a Happy Birthday song, rather than the like “Cumpleanos Feliz”. We don’t really do that. So, but, everyone kind of knew each other enough that they all learned this song to sing me happy birthday or to sing another Mexican happy birthday. So it was much more tight knit. Where here, it’s an organization. I did try to get involved through CHispA. To be honest, I could do more, I go to the events for sure; Latin Night, I’m there. But hopefully I can be a mentor next year, because I had a really good mentor this year—
KNL: [laughter]
KG: Plus, just to get in touch with other Latino students. But the few that I have met have been great. And you meet people that were raised in North Carolina, but others were not—a girl from Peru, Costa Rica, a girl from Venezuela. So it’s a lot. I was actually expecting more Mexicans, but I haven’t met that many Mexicans. I’ll expand more next year most likely.
KNL: I think that’s something though that just takes some time. Different places are different.
KG: Yeah, an opportunity passes when you didn’t even know it was there. I’m really looking forward to next year and—
KNL: finding your niche or whatever.
KG: Yeah. It’s so different.
KNL: Especially coming from an international school and stuff, I’m sure it’s a lot different.
KG: It’s cool that there are others that come from the same type of school. We’re twenty and next year there’s three more coming and one of them went to my school. So, it’ll be nice to have him around. We can reminisce but we also like get each other. It’s so different, and that type of experience, it’s weird. Not many people go through it. But, I don’t mind. It was fun. It’ll be a guy from Brazil, a guy from Texas, and a girl from Italy coming next year. So it’s good to have them.
KNL: Yeah, that’s fun! So do you think that any of those, those experiences, like, and even moving, kind of shaped—wait how am I trying to word this question—like shaped your views of migration or even other immigrants that have come to the states? On like—I’m trying to think—
KG: Yeah, it’s just, in regards to Mexican immigration, I do support helping the immigrants when they’re here. But I also really wish that the problems would be fixed in Mexico. Because Mexico, I mean, like a ridiculous percentage, like twenty percent of Mexican budget comes from families here that send money to Mexico. So Mexico has literally no incentive to fix the problem. So, it’s because, I don’t know, it’s so frustrating because I met, I worked with an Indian restaurant this past summer. And they assumed I was illegal as well, but I was like “no! I’m not” but they were just telling me their stories and it’s very clear that these people do not want to leave. No one wants to leave. No one really wants to leave their country, but it’s just that their country is not paying enough and so those five dollars that you’d get below minimum wage are already more than what you get in Mexico even if you have no rights, you can’t really live, you have to live you know in a cave. But I just wish Mexico could improve. I do for sure, I mean, if you need medical attention and you can’t get it because you’re an illegal immigrant, I think people should help because people are people. But, ideally, for me—ah I remember there was this movie called “The Day After Tomorrow.” I don’t know.
KNL: Just like the normal Hollywood film.
KG: Yeah. And it was about the apocalypse, not apocalypse, but there was a huge storm and there was this scene where people were crossing the Rio Grande, but into Mexico. And it was just the funniest thing. For me—
KNL: Yeah that’s interesting. I haven’t seen that movie, but like—
KG: It was supposed to be funny, and I get it. But, I don’t know. For many Mexicans the dream would be for the economy to be good enough, the social structure to be good enough for people to come back and not have to be like slaves elsewhere. And right now, with the new president it’s just, I don’t know. Because, we were only supposed to live here for a year.
KNL: Your family?
KG: Yeah. But, I guess we ended up liking it [laughter]. But, my sister and I sometimes we talk about this- if we’d go back. I would love to, but it’s very difficult right now. And at the same time you want to help, but how would you begin especially if you aren’t based there. I mean, my education is American; my degree will be American. Will I even get a job there, probably not. Or, it would be more valuable here, or through an American company. I just, I don’t know, what my next step will be. If I’ll go back.
KNL: Yeah, I was going to ask if you wanted to go back, or if like you just wanted to stay in the States.
KG: Because, you do miss things. I would think that—I mean it’s almost been ten years, ten/eleven years out. We go often enough to where it’s nice to be reminded. And, especially for the future, the ideal would be to marry a Mexican.
KNL: Yeah—
KG: [laughter] but, because my family is not going to learn English—
KNL: Your extended family?
KG: Mmhm. We are very close, so there is no escaping that. We would have to visit quite frequently. And where are you going to find a Mexican other than Mexico? I mean you can find people here, but it would be easier there. Raising the kids, I want my kids to speak Spanish first. The other language, whatever, I’m open! It would just be easier. Or maybe another Latin American country, but even then they aren’t that much better off than Mexico, so.
KNL: And all countries have really different cultures too.
KG: Yeah. For sure. That’s one thing that I learned from international school. Because, for a while, I didn’t want to go to Latin America because I was like “it’s the same shit as Mexico”—oh, excuse me! But it’s the same as Mexico. But no, I’ve been corrected several times. There are different traditions. The first time I heard the Uruguayans speak, I was in shock. Like, is she speaking Spanish? I can’t understand. And just also, just how other people perceive Mexico. Because, I mean, in Mexico the standard is like “hate Argentina”. If you ask people they probably don’t like Argentina. But Mexico doesn’t have that good of a reputation elsewhere, so I was like “oh! I didn’t know that.”
KNL: Yeah. Interesting… That was kind of like me, for the U.S. The first time I traveled abroad I was like “oh, people really don’t like Americans!”
KG: But some countries, for no, it might be like historical where for others its just like completely third party. Okay—whatever.
KNL: It’s really interesting like how stuff works. So have you kind of figured out what you are studying here or what academic goals or career goals that you may have for the future?
KG: Career goals. Well, it will definitely be international—I know that for sure. I do see myself living in different countries, especially because after international school you kind of see your friends as their countries and you—for example, I’m visiting some of my friends this summer, so that will be cool. The world is just, like, that much more personal. I feel like I can live wherever. And, I initially wanted to be an optometrist just because I though eyes were cool. But that degree would only work here, and as much as I like the U.S. I don’t think I’ll stay here forever. I don’t know… I don’t know! So, and I’ve taken a couple of Geography classes, so I definitely into the world. But this stuff—it seems cool—I’m like weirdly attracted to it, but it’s still too early to tell.
KNL: And you’re still in your freshman year, so you’ve got some time to figure it out too.
KG: Because I don’t want to be intimidated by harder subjects because I’m good at math, but I’m not excellent. I’m good at science but not excellent. But this doesn’t mean that I should just shy away from careers that require that, because I would be fine.
KNL: Yeah.
KG: But it’s definitely—and I also really like languages, so any chance that I get to. Seriously, give me a year in a country and I’ll learn it.
KNL: That’s awesome though, it’s really like a gift to have. Because like I really love Spanish, but it’s so difficult for me!
KG: And again, it’s not a thing at my school because I started learning French just because I already knew Spanish, but then with so many francophones there, I just went crazy and practiced every time that I could. And really, it made a huge difference. It’s just talking to people, and hopefully I’m taking Portuguese next semester.
KNL: So then to kind of like—um, backing way up—
KG: No it’s good—
KNL: Because you were talking about languages and you were saying that you like singing in Spanish more, looking at it from like a musical side, is there a type of music that you kind of connect with more? Or is there a reason that you have preferred singing in Spanish, or do you prefer listening to music in Spanish? Or—
KG: It’s just, I have yet to find… I mean, music in English—there’s just some poems in Spanish that could count as songs; they’re beautiful! And I have yet to find that in English. Maybe I’m looking in the wrong place. But even like—what’s a song in English that everyone finds really beautiful in English?
KNL: I don’t know. I feel like that doesn’t happen as often. But the reason that I was asking is because a lot of people that I have spoken too that are like musicians and non musicians that are Latino—they’re like “it’s just the lyrics” that they think are different—
KG: The lyrics—they are so good—
KNL: Because my Spanish isn’t fluent, so I’m like hm—
KG: They’re just, I mean the Carlos Juanes’ “Como Duele,” he makes like some ridiculous… the imagery’s is just like okay, he’s talking about an elf okay, you know. But it’s really good. In the U.S.—because the hierarchy that I mentioned about which songs I like, voice is always on top. So like I do like Adele, or Whitney Houston, or Jennifer Hudson. But even then, just the things that they talk about in Spanish, you see more variety. You can have really intense love longs or kind of high-school-flirty, but it’s still beautiful. Like Reik has a lot of those—
KNL: Yeah.
KG: But then like Taylor Swift—It’s just not the same. I don’t know. I don’t know what turns me off or turns me on. The lyrics are definitely, I can understand. Because even the rap, like, well not the rap that you would hear when you’re dancing, but Calle 13—they have great rhymes. Oh that’s another thing, a lot of music in English doesn’t rhyme. Or I see that more in English music, where as in Spanish music it’s always on cue. And I like rhyming.
KNL: No it’s fun! And that probably has somewhat to do with like very endings and stuff, too.
KG: Yeah. Probably. But, I appreciate a good rhyme.
KNL: But that’s really an interesting way to think about it. Do you think, like, with musicians for instance, you have like Daddy Yankee or Prince Royce they’re—or like a lot of that “group” of guys, I guess, I don’t want to group them all together because they’re not necessarily similar, but they are American, like they grew up in the States, but they are of Latino heritage, so their music is kind of influence by both—Spanish and English and different things—do you think that with all the stuff happening with migration, where you have people coming or like you have kind of that “dual identity,” do you think that they are playing off of that in their music where that has kind of influenced them? Or do you think it is kind of the reverse, where these different musicians that are doing stuff like that, are influencing the youth that are here? Does that kind of make sense?
KG: I definitely, I feel that as a musicians, you use what you know and if you have dual identities it is going to show up regardless. Like, we were studying Shakira one time, and even her strain of Lebanese descent shows up. So I can see that. And then, maybe, people that, again, are raised here but still identify a lot with the Latino culture. Those will be musicians in the future, and they are going to have a mix. There are just going to be more mixes, but it will be like a whirlwind, but it will be cool to see what new music comes out.
KNL: Yeah. I just though it was interesting, thinking about it like, okay is it because of the musicians and song writers that are almost making that more prevalent in youth? Or is it because it is that way, it is making the musicians do it? That kind of thing.
KG: But I think that one will encourage another, so if worked for him, then maybe my spunky or mixture will work as well, and it will or it may not. So, I could see that.
KNL: Do you think for you, then, kind of having, because you basically have spent half your life in Chihuahua and half you life in Texas and New Mexico and North Carolina [laughter], and traveling the world, have you found that when you are in certain setting either when you are with your family, like your immediate family or your extended family in Chihuahua, or in the United States, you kind of switch the way that you act in those cultural contexts or how you identify? Or do you think that it’s like pretty consistent.
KG: Switch what?
KNL: Do you think that there’s like differences in the way that you interact with people, like, in different settings versus in being Mexico or being in the U.S. or what language you’re using?
KG: Well yeah. Well family is a lot more relaxed. And also, my family in Mexico, we don’t really come from a very, it’s, my family doesn’t have much, so everything is very relaxed. And, they listen to a lot of, so that region of Mexico—the North—has it’s own type of music, Musica Norteña. I really don’t like it, but. Maybe if I lived there, I would be more used to it, but it still throws me off. And like they dance to it. And one of my cousins wanted to be in a band for that type of music, but it’s not my scene. But they’re very Northern Mexican in that sense. And then, in the U.S. the thing about me is that I can easily pass off as an American. I mean, a lot of people assume that, so it has been a different experience for me than for my sister who is a bit darker, and more “Mexican” looking, and I—I’m trying to think. I do still act—because I can only be me.
KNL: Yeah…
KG: But, I do, if it comes up, I will make it know “hey I’m from Mexico”. The only time I don’t say it is if it’s just like a quick—it’s easier to say that I’m from Texas. But, I usually always say, “Yeah I’m from Mexico, but I moved to Texas, and then New Mexico, and now I’m here.”
KNL: So then do you identify more as being Mexican versus being quote-on-quote American?
KG: It’s just, it would be hard. It’s hard because growing up you cheer on the national team, you know, I still don’t know the U.S. Anthem—I know Mexico’s anthem. That’s the flag that I recognized first. And Mexico is very patriotic. Especially with independence or just with soccer, especially. And, I guess I never really, it just crept up on me that each year was passing by and I was spending more and more years here. Because the first couple years it was like “oh I’m from Mexico. I’ve been here one year, two years, three years…” And then, people started to know me, so they just knew. But I guess, now that it’s more half and half—and I actually became a citizen in 2011 so it’s been three years already and it feels like it was one year. But, I guess, if I were to travel to a different country I would definitely include the U.S. It would be wrong to say that I lived my entire life in Mexico because I was in the U.S. and I can provide that perspective. I don’t know. I was in the U.S. when Obama won, I was in the U.S. when [pauses] I think that’s cool. But I guess I would have to move somewhere else.
KNL: Yeah—That’s an interesting way of looking at it. Thinking about your past and your present as the “new thing,” but if you moved again.
KG: Yeah that’s a great question. I had never—because I have—I am probably going to be here for a while just because, I don’t know. I am a hundred, okay not a hundred percent, but I’m pretty sure that if I moved somewhere else, I would definitely include the U.S.
KNL: No, that’s an interesting way of looking at it more introspectively, I guess. Okay, so I guess, another question… It’s really so neat getting to talk to you like—
KG: Yeah, go ahead!
KNL: So, as for like music-related things, is there a type of music then—like you said really don’t like Norteña and like that is very characteristically northern border of Mexico. I mean “nortena” that’s like “north” basically. So is there something that you like more? That you sing more? Or do you, I don’t know if you compose any of your own stuff?
KG: I wish! No. So with music in Spanish, you have—I look at it as what you need at the moment you need it. I personally only sing, well I kind of have a lower range. I mean I can’t—like who sings really high? I can’t think of anyone. Anyway, my voice is a bit thicker, so I look for, especially because a lot of beautiful songs are by male singers and they are in my register but they sometimes go too low or I wish I could go higher. So if I can find female singers with lower voices. I mean, Adele is great for me. In Spanish, that would be, let’s see. I really like Connie Garcia. She’s from Puerto Rico. She’s not that well known, but she has a beautiful voice. Connie Garcia; who else? La Oreja de Van Gogh. She’s a kind of high, but if I took it a little lower it works. Jesse & Joy. Lydia. Let’s see. And there are some male singers, but that’s when I have to change it a lot. But as far as what the music says, it’s usually ballads. Ballads I sing. Oh Shakira. Of course! I sing a lot of Shakira. Ballads, yes. And then you have—I really like Rock in Spanish. Which is Maná, Enanitos Verdes, [42:44]. But those are just for my own enjoyment; I wouldn’t actually perform any of those songs because it’s—
KNL: Just for fun?
KG: Yeah. And again I really like voice, those are—it’s not that voice intensive, where as the other one’s, you know, require like up and down and thin and I like that. I like that a lot. And I can’t rap; it’s okay. And I—that’s across all music, even English or. I listen to some French music and it’s the same thing.
KNL: Yeah French music is fun. It’s really different than stuff in the Americas, I feel like. So I guess like one last, one last question. Is that, I guess like, kind of looking back or looking forward do you think there has been any major obstacles you’ve over come or different things where music has been a part of that—or maybe not at all—or goals you have for the future that may or may not include music?
KG: Well, obstacles with music.
KNL: Not necessarily—like it doesn’t have to include music. If it does, that’s cool, but also just like personally, something difficult for you and how you’ve over come it.
KG: It’s just—it still blows my mind that I have a very different experience than from other immigrants just because of the way that I look. And, I was talking to a woman in the cafeteria and she was in shock just because like, my eyes are green, she wouldn’t believe me. And I was like “no!” And even when I lived in Mexico, if we went to a touristy place, people would speak to me in English. I didn’t know English, but they would assume that I was American. So I have had a lot less obstacles because of that. But with music, when I was still new to this country, I didn’t sing for a really long time when I first moved here, just like, language barrier. I didn’t even feel comfortable. I was finally learning what these songs meant, and I didn’t sing for years. In New Mexico, again it was just so open and also at my school each region—we had cultural shows where we divided up the world into five regions, which was North America, Latin America and the Caribbean together; Europe; Asia; Africa. Asia included Oceania. So throughout the two years, each region puts on a show and the students of that region kind of show their culture. So I got to—I like sang for a lot of that. We sang “Latinoamerica” by Calle 13. That was a very proud moment. But I definitely felt free to do stuff there. And also, I was older—
KNL: So this was at your high school?
KG: Yeah.
KNL: Okay.
KG: And, I don’t have that many memories. In regards to immigration, other than the occasional comment or “oh crap, I forgot you were Mexican”. Which, it would just slide off; it’s just annoying.
KNL: So what kind of goals do you have then? I mean, this is just the beginning of college for you, but like, for the rest of your college career and afterwards, are there certain things that you have in mind?
KG: To definitely get more involved. I was, I really liked this Latino Organization that we sang for, I mean, it was kind of, it came out of nowhere. Someone just posted like “Hey! Who likes to sing?” I was like “I do!” and that’s how it happened. So, I really want to get in contact with them. I definitely want to keep singing because, especially, with this past weekend I realized how much I like it and how much—even if it’s just for me, I like it. I high school, we had like a Latin band; that was fun. But, even if it’s just me and music, I like, especially when it’s in Spanish which kind of sucks that this a cappella group didn’t work out because—
KNL: You should just start one!
KG: Oh, maybe. If I could find enough—because the main reason that I pinpointed this one was that it allowed me to sing in Spanish. And the other ones, I don’t know how flexible they are going to be—I don’t think they would. But I have hope. Maybe I’ll ask.
KNL: Yeah you should! But that’s really interesting, you were saying, you felt like your immigration experience was different on the way that you look. Because like, my mom’s family they are Japanese and they have green eyes, like I don’t, but my mom and my sister do and they’re Asian, so it’s like, that part of the family was like “Oh you have green eyes! That’s so weird!” So it’s like a really similar thing.
KG: It totally changes the way that people view you. And it was different in Mexico, but in Northern Mexico, like, there are people this color. Further south, I guess it’s different. I don’t know.
KNL: Is it like that with your parents and extended family too, or mainly just you?
KG: My mom’s side is very pale, and then my dad’s side not so much. But, no one is that dark, and well I mean, in Mexico I do get comments because they think—it’s the eye and skin color because if I had darker eyes I wouldn’t get that as much. But, it’s just like we’re playing and like the broken English: “Oh where are you from?” “Dude, I’m from Mexico” and I’m speaking in Spanish. And my sister, she’s, she had a harder time in school just because of that. Which, I—I can’t imagine.
KNL: Yeah—it’s so different.
KG: As soon as I learned English, you really couldn’t know unless you asked. And if you’re speaking Spanish.
KNL: Hm. That’s really interesting though; I have never really thought about that before.
KG: And there’s tons, I met a girl from Argentina here, she’s—she looks American. And we totally bonded over this. It’s not that you want to be distinguished like “No, no, I’m Mexican!” It’s not about that. It’s just, the assumption that is wrong. Again, times that it has bothered me the most is when people make comments or like racist jokes or comments about Mexican immigration or Mexican things and totally forget that I’m there. It’s like, I’m still Mexican. Color doesn’t matter.
KNL: Is there anything else that you want to add about this or that we talked about?
KG: I don’t know…
KNL: Or like any last words?
KG: I don’t know! I hope that I keep singing; it’ll be in Spanish, for sure. But again, the American identity is very much there. It’ll come up. I don’t know what else to add.
KNL: No that’s good! Thank you!
KG: Thank you!