Vacations were not something that were ever really part of my vocabulary growing up.
Growing up poor meant that when we did something different or went to another country – like Canada which we did twice on a road trip, Guatemala, or even Nicaragua (my motherland) – it was always because papi had work stuff. Work stuff in my family was also church stuff, so vacations never really felt like a time to relax and disconnect – but rather a time of being away with a lot of obligations and responsibilities. The three times I somehow ended up at camp, they were Christian Latinx church camps that were meant to “fix” us from what public education did to us, they were not art or music camps.
So for obvious reasons, vacations were something that I saw as a luxury. It was something that white and/or wealthy families did, but never something we did in my family. As I have experienced my own upward class mobility, I have actually gone on a handful of vacations now. I take that time very seriously. I think culturally, and due to my class growing up, I was not taught how to properly take care of myself, to really heal and recharge. I think that is why white people sleep better. They aren’t a historically oppressed and marginalized group and they know how to rest. They’ve perfected the art of sleeping peacefully.
However, in the past year, I have been in a monogamous committed relationship with a white man. What that means is that they have a yearly vacation that they all attend and, yes, I am the only person of color on these vacations. Furthermore, they are wealthier and relatively conservative, which stands in stark contrast to my own pagan radically liberal sexual liberation feminist ways.
So, while I could step into this yearly endeavor ready for war; constantly correcting and redirecting their microaggressions into conversations around race, class, gender, colonialism, ableism, and the likes, I am not being paid for that sort of emotional labor! I have decided to take vacations seriously!
Below is my honest to Guadalupe survival guide to managing and avoiding being hurt during my gringo family vacation.
1. Bring a Book, Board Game, or Games on Your Phone/Tablet
I do not want to engage in small talk because it leads to bigger topics that I know his family is not open and willing to engage in. I do not want to really talk much unless necessary, so I take my book to the beach and I relax. This is my time. I have control of what is allowed near it. So I read, I fall asleep on the beach, I wake up and read some more. Quite frankly, this is probably the best part of a vacation. I play board games and kick ass. Growing up poor meant that I got good at strategy games because I did not have cable tv or video games to distract me. I practiced a lot! I also play Sudoku or any other mind game that I can think of that can distract me and keep me entertained. I do whatever it takes for me to relax.
2. Drink or Take Some Inhibitors
Unfortunately, I cannot ignore his family for the entire trip, lest I appear “rude” for trying to survive this overwhelmingly white space. So, when we are out for dinner, I drink. Not so much that I will snap at his brother’s “anti-government-handouts” but enough to sit numbly through them and make silly faces at the babies at the dinner table. Again, I will not do the emotionally draining labor of teaching white people to treat people like people while on vacation because quite frankly I do that all the time.
3. Be Prepared
I know his family has varied political views. Knowing full well which of them have decided that their political and religious views come into direct conflict with my humanity is key to surviving and actually resting on my vacation. His cousin hates me. And, although she seems oblivious to the fact that her reasons for hating me are racially charged, her reasons for hating me are still racially charged. So before I come at her with the full throttle of a Latina Rebel, I ensure that while on vacation I do not sit near her. I do not end up in her room. I do not end up in the same car with her. Because while I can be mindful of my own actions, I am only human and when/if she says anything to me that triggers me I will probably pounce. To avoid being a punching bag to privileged white female fragility, I will be prepared beforehand to avoid those situations.
4. Bring a Friend Along
We are stronger together. White bae will never understand the many things that I will avoid, not say, do to actually enjoy said vacation – so bring a close friend whom you’ve sufficiently warned about the situation. Ensure that this feels like a vacation to you and not just a vacation for them from your politics and identity.
5. Do Not Go
If at the end of the day, your attendance at this vacation feels suffocating and dehumanizing, do not go. I have no other solution. I, myself, have accepted the fact that there may come a time when I can no longer be in these spaces and should not be obligated to be present when nobody seems to care about me.
Hope this helps and happy vacationing!!!