Latino nerdConfession time, guys: this chica is a nerd. A HUGE nerd. A Marvel Comics-reading, Orphan Black-watching, Joss Whedon-worshipping, David Tennant-loving, graduate-degree-holding nerd. Need someone to proof-read your term paper or a buddy for a midnight sing-along of The Rocky Horror Picture Show? I have your back.

Embracing my nerdiness is easy now. We’re living in an age where The Avengers is a billion dollar hit, The Big Bang Theory is one of the top-rated shows on prime time, and Comic Con is a hotter, more exclusive ticket than Coachella. Sadly, such was not the case when I was younger.

Growing up, it was universally acknowledged that one’s identity as a “true” Latino was inversely proportional to one’s academic achievements and intellectual pursuits. In simpler terms, the worse your grades were and the less ambitious you were, the more “legit” you were. If you ditched school to hang out with your friends, and your friend’s cousin Smiley who just got out of juvie, you were in; you were a homegirl and a “true” Latina. If you went to class and actually learned something, you were not; you were accused of “acting white.”

As you can imagine, this was a problem for me. With the exception of grad school, I’ve been a straight-A student my entire life, and not just because my parents expected me to earn good grades. I actually like to be challenged and need a certain amount of intellectual stimulation just to get by. I read The New Yorker for fun. I watch movies with subtitles in them. I went to space camp when I was thirteen, and kind of regret not being better at math so that I could have studied engineering and gone on to work for JPL (like Howard Wolowitz on The Big Bang Theory). You might say I’m a boring person, or an insufferable one, but my interests and achievements have no effect on the color of my skin or my features. They don’t change the fact that I am a Mexicana from el D.F. whose parents brought her to the States to give her a better life.

More importantly, since when is intelligence exclusive to ethnicities other than ours? As Latinos, we come from a long line of pretty smart people. The Aztecs, the subject of many a bitchin’ homeboy tattoo, built an architecturally impressive city on a complex network of canals. The Maya were master astronomers and mathematicians. We have math in our blood, kanguros! Y Shakespeare? We have one of those, too. His name was Miguel de Cervantes and his impact on our language was so profound, Spanish is often referred to as la lengua de Cervantes.

Modernly, Latinos have made important contributions in varied disciplines and we continue to make strides. Argentina, Chile, Colombia, and Mexico are all home to Nobel Prize winners in chemistry, physiology, and literature. A Puerto Rican, “Wise Latina” sits on the United States Supreme Court. A young migrant worker went from the fields of Stockton to the International Space Station.
We shouldn’t short-change ourselves and judge “Latin-ness” based on how unambitious and poorly educated we are. Instead of hating, we should encourage one another. After all, venimos a este país a triunfar, ¿que no?

Guest post by Diana Rivero