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SONIA SAUCEDA: ‘I don’t have much familiarity with Latinx’

MEXICO-BORN Sonia Sauceda is the manager of the Panadería Nuevo León bakery, located at 1634 West 18th St. in the Pilsen neighborhood in Chicago. Sauceda, 50, identifies herself as Mexican and Mexican-American. She defines her race to be “mestizo, because we’re a mix between European and Native [American].” 

What do you think of the term “Latinx” to define people of Latin American or Spanish background? 

I honestly don’t know much about it, to be honest. I don’t really. I’m 50 years old so I pretty much still use “Latino”, “Latina”, “Mexican”, “Mexicana”. So, to be honest, I don’t have much familiarity with it. 

Do you feel that maybe the term “Latinx” is just an excuse for corporations to lump all Latino cultures together? Make it one thing?

I don’t, I really can’t say much on that because I don’t have the familiarity with it. 

Has your experience as a Latinx person isolated you to the way you grew up, or have been able to branch out culturally? 

No. I mean, we’ve been in a Latino neighborhood, primarily. We pretty much more [spend our life] with our super high tight knit families. We don’t know much of what’s out there. Other than most, a lot of us went to school, kind of ventured out. So, other than that, our roots are here, our families. 

How do you navigate U.S. culture? What type of cultural shock have you experienced? 

I don’t know if I’ve experienced much of a culture shock. Maybe because I was raised here. I think, culture shock was leaving Pilsen. Oh yeah, when I left Pilsen. I thought everything was like Pilsen. [When we moved] to the suburbs I was young, that I did experience. I thought everybody spoke the way we did in Pilsen, and this was my normal, so going to suburbs was kind of different, like, why are they speaking differently? When in reality, we were the ones with a little bit of an accent because we speak Spanish at home [and] speak English outside; it’s a mix.

“I pretty much still use ‘Latino’, ‘Latina,’ ‘Mexican,’ ‘Mexicana.’”

I didn’t learn English until I was 8 years old.

Yeah, they threw me in kindergarten, and I only spoke Spanish at home. So, I don’t remember, to be honest. I do remember having an accent. I remember having our neighborhood accent and I remember trying to at least pronounce, have the pronunciation correctly. That’s what I always [work on when] I was in high school. I have to try the pronouncing correctly. 

So you speak Spanish. How do you view Spanish as an attribute to your identity? 

It’s part of me, it’s pretty much half of me. I always spoke Spanish regardless of where I went. It’s just the way I function. [Some] times I function in Spanish; other times I function in English. But, yeah, it’s part of me. Especially with my parents. My parents still only speak Spanish, so yes. 

Would you say your culture is “better” than someone else’s who is of a different ethnicity or country?

No. To be honest, when I was in college, some of my really close classmates were Thai and I realized that as we hung out with them and got to know them, that the similarities were a lot more than the differences, and [they’re] from another continent. Wow, it’s just by meeting people from different backgrounds that you realize how many similarities we both have. 

Does cultural appropriation bother you? 

No, because sometimes what if I take something? It’s an admiration, I would say. If people admire things about a culture, admire it, there’s nothing wrong. I don’t think there is anything wrong with it.

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