During the summer, I wrote a piece on the new Disney Princess Elena of Avalor and how elated I was that Disney had finally put Latinos on the map as one of the “elite.” I was proud that my daughter, although only half Latina, would have someone to look up to. I took to Instagram and spoke about how much I hated being Latina (Peruvian) when I was younger and many related to my story.
So, yes I hated being Latina– the music was obnoxious, the dancing didn’t make sense, the food– okay it was gooooood, but strange and the language? Well, I didn’t know what anything meant in English or how to say things in English since my parents only spoke Spanish and attempted to speak broken-English. Therefore, relating to kids in my school made it difficult. The kids that were Latino spoke perfect English and were Americanized so they didn’t feel ostracized as I did. I remember this one time when I had a friend from school come over my house– it was the worst experience of my life. My mom couldn’t speak to the girl, it probably smelled of delicious ethnic food and it just became awkward where she ended up crying wanting to go home. We never spoke again. I was an outsider and it felt terrible. I struggled with this all throughout elementary school and when middle-school and high-school hit it did ease down a bit, but I still felt that shame of who I was.
In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month I figured I’d share my pride of now being a Latina, more specifically, Peruvian. Yes, I was born here in America, but still will always say I’m Peruvian. Hiding who I was all those years built more insecurities and eventually led to self-hate, depression and all of that gist– things I still try to overcome today. Being Latina then was hard. There was no one to look up to that I could relate to. No one, but the other “ESL” kids knew what I went through. Yes, I was in ESL because they said I needed to be since my mom and dad spoke only Spanish and there was a language barrier. It wasn’t until I escaped the close-knit community of Long Island and went to John Jay College, that I was amongst “MY PEOPLE.” Finally, people who spoke my language– kind of and ate what I ate– kind of. It felt amazing. I felt a sense of pride being around them and although they were Dominican and I was Peruvian, I was still around my Latinos– who danced to the crazy music, ate strange food and yelled when talking to one another.
I make sure my kids know both sides, although we don’t know much of my spouses Irish side we do celebrate their food and culture when we can. Since I do know my culture I make sure they’re around it as much as possible– visiting their grandparents, speaking to them in Spanish, showing them how to dance to Latin dances, surrounding them with the music. It’s not only about loving the culture, but loving who you are. One thing I always do is try to have Ziana say something positive about herself and how no ones negative opinions about herself should matter. Self-love guys!
My point of telling you all this is that being ashamed of who you are is one of the worst things you could do to yourself. It’s dangerous. I never want Ziana or Gunner to be ashamed of their family, heritage or background. I want them to celebrate the Latino side and celebrate the Irish side just as much. I want them to love themselves because if they don’t love themselves, no one else will– a parents love can only go so far.
What’s something you love about yourself or your culture?