A clash of identities

CNN correspondents and commentators experienced the 2016 presidential election in unique and interesting ways. This recollection and others were produced in conjunction with CNN's election project, "A Race Like No Other: The Unprecedented Election of 2016."

(CNN)This election was not easy for me.

The 2016 campaign challenged me to figure out how to do my job as a journalist while remaining unbiased -- even as my own people were regularly berated by the candidate who ultimately won.
It tested the very core of who I am and what kind of legacy I want to leave as the American-born daughter of two hardworking and humble Mexican immigrants.
I became a journalist to make a difference in this changing world. I am not a Democrat or a Republican; I am a reporter who strives to write honestly and fairly about candidates and officeholders. But when Donald Trump called Mexican immigrants "rapists" and "criminals," adding that he assumed "some are good people," those remarks resonated with my community -- and with me.
    The immigrants I know are honest and industrious. My parents came to the United States to create a better life for their children. And they were successful: My three siblings and I are college-educated Latino-Americans who are working to make this country a better place.
    Still, I had a job to do. I could not -- would not -- take sides. I reported on Trump for a year and a half, and I did so fairly, in the nonpartisan manner that my profession demands.
    There were many days when I struggled to shut off my cultural identity so that I could focus on my job. There were days when I wanted to exclaim to whomever would listen that Mexican-Americans are people, too -- people who contribute to this country, who become citizens and vote in this country, and who matter to this country as much as any other group. There were times when I doubted that my work was improving the perception many in this country have of Latinos.
    I wasn't the only reporter to be tested by this election. It wasn't easy for my colleagues who are African-American, Muslim-American and even women -- members of groups that Trump offended repeatedly during the race.
    But at one point during the campaign -- near my breaking point -- I had a tender conversation with my mother while visiting my parents' home in McAllen, Texas, on the South Texas border:
    "Mijita, tienes que seguir tu lucha, (My little daughter, you need to continue your fight)," my mother told me.
    "¿Por qué? (Why?)" I asked, downcast by the barrage of negative rhetoric on the campaign trail.
    "Por que si tu no lo haces, nadie lo va hacer, (Because if you don't do it, nobody will)," she told me.
    And with that, she reminded me why I woke up every day, why I faced this responsibility head-on.
    I don't regret taking this job to cover the 2016 election. In fact, it's been the best decision I've ever made.
    And now that Trump is going to be the president, I look forward to covering him as a political reporter these next four years. Because one of the most important components of a functioning government is a strong Fourth Estate -- the freedom of the press. That freedom is one that I wouldn't have if I were a reporter in another country, even the one directly south of the border. And it's that freedom and others that make America exceptional. It's one of the reasons my parents chose to make this country their home, and why I'm proud to call it my own.