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What It Means To Be Bicultural During Latinx/Hispanic Heritage Month

Even though this was my eighteenth year having the ability to celebrate a month so ingrained in the history of my cultural roots, it’s one of my more recent years doing so. I didn’t fully recognize Latinx/Hispanic Heritage Month until my sophomore year of high school. One, I felt as though my home in New York City and my family and friends there already provided a grand celebration of my culture and cultures alike. Two, I felt there wasn’t enough buzz around it to be aware that it happens during these dates. 

Being Ecuadorian-American, I have struggled with biculturalism. My parents offered, and continue to provide me, enriching insight into what makes our history effervescent and distinctive. I have never been ungrateful for this. I’ve taken the time to be fluent in my first languages, English and Spanish, and being from two vastly different cultures, they have remained important to me as I’ve learned them both at the same time.

Nevertheless, it feels weird to call myself “American.” I was born on American soil, but isn’t this stolen land from various indigenous populations who inhabited it before colonization? And considering the history and current times of this nation, it gives me even more reason to be disappointed and disconnected from this “culture.” Hence, I mainly claim my Ecuadorian heritage. Even as proudly as I do, this has caused disagreement in my past.

Grappling with my identity hasn’t been an easy feat. Once, I was referred to as the “whitest Latina” someone knew, which was utterly untrue. How is it in someone else’s authority to tell me how I should and can define myself? I’m thankful that I didn’t internalize this, yet it stuck with me as an example of what my circumstances could have been, had I not appreciated who I am enough. As I’ve told this encounter to my friends and family, expressing that it baffled me and that the person was not only white but Hispanic herself, I received many responses, all seeking to understand her intentions. One of my friends warmly affirmed that I am visibly Latina, and even if I weren’t, that wouldn’t make me any less connected to my heritage, as neither looks nor other people’s takes on my identity dictate that. Additionally, my “friend” in the past conformed to the sentiment some people believe, with ignorance, about Latinx and Hispanic people today, said best by one of my dearest friends: “almost as if they expect us to be uneducated and not well-spoken.”

This preconceived notion from my past friend not only stems from self-hate but misunderstanding. The United States is notorious for obscuring opportunities for many BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color), including Latinx and Hispanic folks, and in many cases denying their access to said opportunities to be “educated.” So, speaking in what constitutes “perfect English” equates to being white, meaning “educated” for that person. But this is an unfair and repulsive thought process, because it demeans those who are intellectually capable, just in a different language. It takes a lot to be proficient and brilliant in your native language and then translate your thoughts and ideas into English. 

This month is a time for rejoicing in our triumphs and victories, but also to establish accountability. The ways I’ve kept my connection to my heritage alive and plentiful throughout this month have varied. From conversing with others about how they identify, to refining a playlist created by my friends full of classic and modern Spanish hits that I listen to whenever I have free time to reflect on the music I grew up with, it was a pleasure to be included in this month. 

My culture remains alive and beautiful, which I will never forgo nor take for granted. I hope to find more ways to maintain and amplify this sense of belonging and help others with unique cultures who may face the same because appreciating our cultures is essential.

Arianna Garcia is a part of Kenyon's Class of 2025. Her pronouns are she/her/hers, and she's from New York City. She's so excited to share her creativity with you all on this platform!
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