I arrived in El Paso as a small child and grew up within sight of the Rio Grande. Juárez was part of our lives, and it was comfortable and easy to cross the border. My friends and I were part of rat packs: We had jackets, and zip guns were available, but someone getting killed was rare. For many years, in fact, I secretly felt I was Mexican. But when I was about fifteen, in the middle of a fight, someone said in Spanish, ï¿½Get the gringo.ï¿½ There were a bunch of young men and boys fighting, and I looked around and realized that I was the gringo. It was shocking. Suddenly I was the outsider. From that moment I began to separate myself from my friends, because their response was pretty much the same. It was a hard thing to swallow. I began to understand what it meant to be a minority. My heart was still in Mexico, and I always thought I had the soul of a Mexican. So I began to be a loner and tried to find out where I belonged. And I was a troubled kid until, when I was seventeen, a drama teacher, Lucia P. Hutchins, saw something in me and saved my life. My first play was The Old Lady Shows Her Medals, by J. M. Barrie. I played a Scot in a kilt. Donï¿½t ask me where the accent came from.
F. Murray Abraham lived in Texas from age four to nineteen. He won an Academy award for his performance as Salieri in Amadeus in 1984. His forty-seventh film, Mimic, opens in theaters nationwide on July 18.