“You’re Latina? You don’t even speak Spanish.”
This is something I have heard way too often in my lifetime of 21 years. When I was younger, it didn’t seem to bother me as much. However, as I have gotten older, it irks me in a way like none else.
I come from a Venezuelan mom. My dad was born here in America and met my mom when she moved to the States. I was born in Boca Raton, Florida, where my whole family lived. When I was 3 years old, my mom, dad and I moved to North Carolina; my dad’s side of the family followed. Because of this, I grew up solely around my English speaking family members. I didn’t get much exposure to the Spanish language. I knew the basics because of my mom and the over the phone conversations with my mom’s family, but it wasn’t enough to consider myself “Spanish-speaking.”
When I was younger, I shamingly found myself being okay with not being in touch with my Latina identity. I knew nothing about the culture, didn’t put in the effort to teach myself Spanish and would agree out of laziness when people said I was White.
“You’re like a fake Latina; you’re basically White.”
The comments never ended and still continue to this day. As I grew and matured, they actually started to offend me. Why was everyone so set on stripping that part of my identity from me?
It wasn’t until high school that I truly accepted all parts of myself. I didn’t want to be like everybody else and I didn’t want to settle for the title others decided to give me.
I was always exposed to many traditional Hispanic meals because of what my mom and Abuelos (grandparents) would make for me when I saw them. My favorite was arepas on a cold morning. I would wake up to the smell of cooked arepas lathered in cream cheese, ham and cheese. A classic in my family.
When I was old enough, I took it upon myself to learn the recipes for these meals; the goal was to start incorporating them into my cooking. I began introducing my friends to my meals and it made me excited to share what I was learning with them.
Over the past eight years, I have found myself falling even more in love with Hispanic culture and I often wish I was more exposed to it when I was younger. I’m not surprised by my drive to dive deeper into the culture and language, as I have always been one to appreciate different perspectives and cultures.
So while I may never be “Latina enough” to others, I hope my younger self feels confident enough to prove them wrong.