Being Blonde in Mexico — The North Star Reports – by Jennifer Battcher. Sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and The Middle Ground Journal

Being Blonde in Mexico — The North Star Reports – by Jennifer Battcher. Sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and The Middle Ground Journal

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Living in the upper Midwest, I have never thought much about the relatively homogenous society in which I participate. Being pale in many aspects of my appearance has allowed me to fit right in with the majority of people in the surrounding areas. When I was in Mexico, I experienced what it feels like to look different from nearly everyone around. I had been in Mexico several days, paying absolutely no mind to the fact that I looked very different from most of the people there. It never even occurred to me how much I stood out from those within my group, but it certainly occurred to other people.

“Jenny, these guys want to talk to you because you’re blonde,” said a girl in my group while we were out one night. Because you are blonde. Suddenly, I felt so very noticeable and defined by this one glaring feature that set me apart from the rest. Another time, while my traveling group had dinner with a family from the area, the older ladies started to laugh and giggle as a teenage boy’s face turned red. It was translated to me that this boy was wondering if I would take a picture with him because of my blonde hair. As he stood next to me, embarrassed but defiant to get his picture, I felt very on display, again. Like my hair was shouting “I’m different from you! I’m different from you!” Not only were all the Mexican people staring as our picture was snapped, but so was every brown, black and red haired person from my group. They all stood grouped together watching me and my conspicuous hair with emotionless eyes.

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Suddenly my morning routine changed. As I brushed my hair I began to wonder if I should wear it up to hide the blondness or wear it down and embrace my peculiarity.

When I returned to my society of doppelgängers, I started to notice the few people who don’t camouflage in the snow and wonder if they feel as if a spot light shines on them and their features. Some features that stand out aren’t as easily hidden just by putting your hair up. I wonder what kind of comments and experiences they encounter, and if they ever feel like blending in with the crowd.

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu

See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports

The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, The College of St. Scholastica and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal’s online learning community and outreach program with undergraduate and K-12 classes around the world. The North Star Reports has flourished since 2012. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at:

http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

The North Star Reports publishes edited essays from our students, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. Students have reported from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, northeastern China, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, England, Finland, Russia, and Haiti. We also have students developing reviews of books, documentaries, and films, and analysis of current events from around the world. We will post their dispatches, and report on their interactions with the North Star Reports students and teachers. We thank The Department of History and Politics and the School of Arts and Letters of The College of St. Scholastica for their generous financial support for The North Star Reports and The Middle Ground Journal.

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, MN, USA

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org The NSR is sponsored by The Middle Ground Journal and The College of St. Scholastica. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu

25 Comments

Filed under Jennifer Battcher, North Star Student Editors, Professor Hong-Ming Liang

25 responses to “Being Blonde in Mexico — The North Star Reports – by Jennifer Battcher. Sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and The Middle Ground Journal

    • Katy Goerke

      Why is blending in seen as a good thing? I understand that being singled out isn’t easy, but why would you want to blend in with people who are different from you? I some times struggle with wanting to fly under the radar as well, but remembering that it is our differences from others that define our character is how I’ve learned to embrace them.

  1. David Miller

    I really love how you wrote this article, and it is quite true. I have herd for more than one person that being blonde and being in Mexico you might stick out like a sore thumb. The little boy who wanted the picture with you might have been in awe because of never seeing that hair color before. Last comment I have is to embrace what makes you different in that setting.

  2. Becca Smith

    This is very surprising to me, especially with globalization! As someone who fits in pretty well with the crowd here in Duluth, it’s hard for me to imagine being singled out like you were because of how I look. I would imagine that my reaction would’ve been very similar to the reaction you had, however.

  3. Chelsey L

    This is a very good story! I will say I am surprised none of the red heads didn’t get looked at. That very mature and brave of you to stick it out and be proud of who you are even with blonde hair that shouldn’t judge a person because of their hair color. Once again good way to look at things.

  4. Carley Henning

    It’s crazy how diverse our world is. What could be known as “normal” in one country and for the other country as “rare” is eye opening. I am sure now you will look at the “odd-ball” in the group a lot differently know because you known what it’s like to be in their situation. Very well put article and I enjoy reading it.

  5. Zach Friederichs

    That must have been quite an eye-opener! I experienced the same type of situation when I travelled to Latin America. It really made me realize how annoying it is to be the oddball in a larger group of people.

  6. Camila Garcia

    Is very interesting to see how people react in some societies to the presence of people form other backgrounds. For me, when I came to the United States to study, it was very amazing to have the chance to talk to people from Asia and from Africa. I never had the chance before in my life to talk to people from these places, since in my country I could not find people from these backgrounds. I feel very fortunate to have friends from all over the world here in CSS, is like traveling around the world without leaving.

  7. Ryan Lyzhoft

    I found this article really eye opening and presenting a different view to look through. I had never really thought about what people from another country experience because of their differences. After reading this I will be more conscious about how other people are viewed. This really makes me want to travel to another country to try and experience these differences.

  8. Kendra Johnson

    It’s fun reading how places can be so different than what we’re normally used to. I’ve never really noticed how “American’s” are a lot alike. We don’t really comprehend how different we are from other countries until we’re the ones that are different and experience things that we’re not used to (like people wanting to take a picture with us just because we’re blonde). Great article!

  9. Ada

    I really enjoyed reading about your time in Mexico, and the incredibly important and relevant questions you began asking yourself when you came back! It’s amazing to realize the power certain colors have isn’t it? Sadly, as it happens in many parts of the world, including the Unites States, this power can at times directly imply the powerlessness of others, and this continues to be as significant in the US as it is in Latin America. It’s incredibly worthwhile to analyze the privilege, socioeconomic, cultural, and political implications colors have been given, and even the own power that you hold based on the color of your hair. Although I am not blonde, as a Latin American I am considered to be light skinned, and this perception of color alone can at times foster the oppression and discrimination of others who do not share my skin color. Thank you for sharing! 🙂

  10. Kaitlyn Young

    This was a really interesting article to read! It makes me wonder how some people feel here in the US. It’s interesting to think that I could be the one that have people taking pictures with me just because of my hair color. I’ve never had that experience, but it seems like it would be a very eye-opening experience to have.

  11. Evangelista Chicheko

    This is an interesting article. I can somewhat relate to your experience but in my case, its not about the hair. As an international student, most people can tell that I have an accent and this makes me stand out from everyone around me, in most cases. It used to make me feel uncomfortable my very first days here in the US but I got used it and it has made me embrace my origins because they make me unique from everyone.

  12. Alex Cole

    It’s interesting how you don’t notice your norms until put into a different situation. For me it was weird being one of the tallest people when I went to Mexico because they are not as tall there.

  13. Thank you for Sharing! When a friend of mine went to Mexico with her family she was mistaken for Taylor Swift, only because of her blonde hair. They were also asking for photos with her as well. I think that it is cool to be different!

  14. Kyle Hellmann

    Very interesting to see that something so small and a thing you regard as the norm, can be a huge thing in a different culture! It makes me wonder if I travel abroad if I will pick up on little things like your blonde hair! Thanks for sharing

  15. Interesting phenomenon here. Cool way of taking it back to your home with you. I’m certain it give you a different perspective on how people with different appearance characteristics feel like here. I think that’s what many of us readers also took from this piece.

  16. Ashley Svihel

    Wow this was really interesting! I had no idea that blonde hair was rarely if ever seen in Mexico. I thought that everyone knew and saw all colors of hair all the time. I also have blonde hair and I think it would be fun to show it off. So when you were deciding if you should pin it up, I would say definitely not!

  17. Bao Vang

    Reading your article trigger an experience I had when I studied aboard in Morocco. A girl came up to me, asked if she can take a picture with me, and I shrugged my shoulders as in “sure why not”. When her dad was about to take a photo, he said ” My daughter loves Korean people”. I looked at him confused then stated that I was not Korean and proceed to walk away. At this moment, the daughter grabbed my arm and the dad just said “Oh it’s okay. You look Korean anyways” and took the photo. So this was a very awkward experience studying aboard.

  18. Hannah Kunde

    It was very thoughtful of you to reflect on your experience once you returned home from Mexico. For instance this quote in particular, “When I returned to my society of doppelgängers, I started to notice the few people who don’t camouflage in the snow and wonder if they feel as if a spot light shines on them and their features.” I think you are absolutely correct when you talk about people feeling like they are on display simply because they are a minority. Thank you for sharing!

  19. hahaha, great story! I have a friend who goes to Yale. Last summer she went to China and at one point she had a huge circle of people around her who wanted to touch her hair and her skin, and even wanted to take photos with her.

  20. Samantha Roettger

    I have actually heard of similar experiences to yours. I have also heard before, but am not sure how reliable the source is, that blonde hair is becoming extinct. So when blondes are seen in countries with mostly dark hair, like Mexico, it is rare and wants to be captured by locals. If you think about it, most girls with blonde hair have dyed it so it may be true that blonde hair is becoming extinct.

  21. It’s amazing how such a small physical aspect can impact other people’s reactions. I have the opposite experience to yours. When I look in the mirror I see my Anishinaabe features, but unless I tell someone I am biracial they never think twice about my prominent cheekbones and almond shaped eyes. I sometimes get asked if I’m part Asian, to which I usually tell them they should not ask someone a question that personal. I sometimes wish that I had darker skin and coarse hair, but I know that with my privilege I can begin to challenge the power structure and prejudice held towards Indigenous peoples.

  22. Eleni

    Your experience in Mexico has, I think, really opened your eyes to the experience of a lot of people around the world. Some people do not realize how big of an issue identity is in our day to day life. Until you are put on that spot and see it for yourself, it is hard to imagine the effect it has on people. For myself, I did not realize just how deeply identity could isolate people from each other until I came to the US. I am not sure if it is because there is a large amount of diversity here, but it becomes acutely obvious to everyone here that they are part of one group and not another.

  23. Kalley Friederichs

    Jennifer, I find it very funny that you wrote about being blonde in a foreign country. While on a trip to Central America this past summer with one of my friends who is extremely blonde we experienced this same thing. My friend and another girl on my trip who was also a bleach blonde were asked multiple times by natives to take a pictures with them. Knowing this stereotype one girl on my trip even brought a box of brown temporary hair dye in case she felt that she was standing out to much or targeted by locals. It definitely is a different feeling when you are no longer part of the normal and are instead part of the minority.

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