Culture Shock.

Over the summer, one of my best friends (of over 10) years called me and asked if I wanted to take a trip before summer ended. I immediately said, “YES!” We instantly started planning our end-of-summer vacay and decided on Seattle and Portalnd. We chose to go there because neither of us had ever been to the Pacific North West and we could easily take a three-hour train ride between cities (and let’s be honest, marijuana is legal in both places). However, I was more excited to go to Portland because I got hooked on this show called Portlandia (a sketch comedy TV series set and filmed in and around Portland) and was even looking into Ph.D. programs at the University of Portland.

Our first stop was Seattle and decided to hit-up a coffee shop when we got there. Having just recently come out, I was super ecstatic because there was a huge rainbow flag outside the coffee shop. As a matter of fact, I think I saw more rainbow flags and Black Lives Matter posters outside businesses in the Pacific North West than other area I have been to. It was really great to see so much support for diversity.

For the first time I felt like I was in a place that truly celebrated and embraced the LGBTQ community and my identity. Here is a photo I took at Capitol Hill.

First time seeing rainbow crosswalks.

After spending two days in Seattle, we made our way to Portalnd. After getting settled into our AirBnb, we decided to walk around and check out the neighborhood where we stayed. To my surprise, we were staying right next to the Q Center. Here is a photo I took right outside.

“Search for hope even if you feel it is out of reach.” — Q Center — Portland, Oregon

This photo made me very emotional because of the recent tragedy in Orlando. I thought this photo was very symbolic of what the LGBTQ community had been feeling after the mass shooting — death and heartbreak, but also a sense of closeness and a deeper sense of pride. (Needless to say, I damn well celebrated my queer identity at Austin and San Marcos Pride).

While on vacation I felt liberated because I knew I was in an area that celebrated my identity. However, I still felt like something was missing — I saw no other brown people. I had no Latino community there like I did in Texas. It was so interesting to experience that identity shift.

Texas is home because there are so many people that look like me and it has rich Mexican culture/history, but Washington/Oregon is a place where my queer identity is celebrated in a way it isn’t in Texas. I started questioning which parts of my identity I found to be most important to me. Was it my Mexican upbringing/culture/heart, or did I find this new/exciting queer identity/community to be more important? Eventually, I realized that I didn’t have to choose a master identity because it is all the diversity within myself that make me so unique.