Growing up in Weslaco, Texas, in the Valley, biomedical engineering junior Gabby Tan thought she was just like all of her other Chicano friends. It wasn’t until she was eight years old that her parents told her she was actually half-Sicilian, half-Chinese.
“I looked like all of my friends,” Tan said. “I was brown, and we all looked the same. My mom had white skin, green eyes, blonde hair and my dad definitely looks Asian so I just thought I was straight-up adopted.”
However, instead of being a positive experience, finding about her true heritage was disorienting. It made her lose sight of how she saw herself because she felt she had already been embraced by the Latino community.
Tan said many people read her as Mexican growing up in the Valley.
“It’s not that I understand entirely the Mexican experience,” Tan said. “But when I go to a store and someone is following me around making sure I’m not stealing anything, I know it’s because I look Mexican. I know this is not the white experience and this is not the Asian experience.”
Tan lost the connections she had to her heritage when her parents divorced. She then turned to family recipes like krupuk, Dutch crackers her father used to eat in Indonesia, as a way to reconnect with her father’s heritage.
“It was a very nifty way of kinda summing up that part of my family’s culture, which was important to me,” Tan said.
Tan said she now sees her biracial identity as a culmination of many influences and is content with who she is.
“What people need to understand about me is that I’m more than just mixed race,” Tan said. “I’m my own category altogether.”