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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at FSU chapter.

Hispanic Heritage Month is dedicated to celebrating the culture, history, and traditions of people who are from Spanish-speaking countries. Having grown up in a Colombian household with one Hispanic parent and one white parent, I have always struggled with my identity. Particularly, I’ve struggled with how to appreciate both cultures sufficiently and efficiently.

I grew up being completely split in half to the point where I was even called two names. My name is Leanne Sofia, but my dad’s side calls me Leanne and the Colombian side only refers to me as Sofia. My little sister and I quite literally look like two carbon copies of our parents. I appear white and freckled like my dad but speak mainly Spanish, meanwhile, my sister is more Hispanic presenting but speaks mostly English. I learned the history of Colombia and how my mother lived, as well as the way my father was raised and what was important to him. I learned how to cook and enjoy foods from both cultures (although I am particularly fond of Spanish food). Lastly, I learned the amazing and beautiful traditions of my mother’s Hispanic family while still appreciating my dad’s American customs. 

But the struggle comes with being able to fit into both molds at the same time or even deciding on one at all. In the United States and in my father’s family, we are Colombians. My mother, my sister and I are the only ones who can speak a different language, eat different food, and live our lives to a different tune (quite literally — their sense of music and dancing baffles me). In Colombia, the opposite is true. To my mother’s family, we are the two Americans who grew up in a comfortable household speaking English, going to a girl-boy non-Catholic school, and under American customs and traditions. 

However, when my mother immigrated to the United States, she told herself she would never let her children forget where they came from. And that she did not. Throughout Hispanic Heritage Month, she reminds us of all the beautiful traditions we carry. My whole life, she had made sure to incorporate my Hispanic heritage along with the customs my dad had. My first return to Colombia was for a three-month quinceañera, a coming-of-age celebration for when a Hispanic girl turns 15. The following year I had a Sweet 16 in the United States with my dad. She reminds me of all the wonderful memories I have in Colombia: visiting the historic sites, climbing the mountains, eating the food, and learning the dances as a young 15-year-old. 

We also speak a lot about my personal favorite tradition called Novenas. It’s celebrated in December the nine days leading up to Christmas Eve. It’s a Hispanic Catholic tradition where you have predetermined prayers each day that you say, songs you sing, and cultural food you eat with family and friends. Each night, the Novena is hosted at a different house with different food and songs to sing. In this way, our small Colombian community comes together to celebrate with music, prayers, and good food before Christmas Day festivities. 

Being away in Tallahassee, all my mother can really do is talk to me about my traditions. I take it upon myself to appreciate the Hispanic side of my life a little extra. I cook a lot of Spanish food such as sudado, buñuelos, and caldo de papa, and indulge in treats such as Nucitas and Bon Bon Bums. I also make sure to be proud of my heritage and wear it like a badge everywhere I go. The music, the dancing, and especially the language thankfully made it easy for me because my roommate happens to also be Colombian.

Most importantly throughout this month, I have come to realize that I do not have to fit into a specific mold. I can appreciate and enjoy my American heritage while paying homage to the Colombian side of me. My mother has always told me that she raised me to be an independent multicultural woman, who she made sure had the best parts of Colombia infused into her. I hope I make her proud. 

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Leanne is a student at Florida State University studying Public Health and Behavioral Neuroscience with a minor in business. She enjoys writing, and being outdoors, and is super excited to be a part of the Her Campus community!