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Living in the In-Between: A Story of a Colombian-American Daughter

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at NCSU chapter.

Are you Hispanic or Latino?” A common question asked on almost every single legal document you will ever come across. Questions that the world uses to identify and categorize people into statistics of demographics. Not necessarily always in a bad way, but just in a way so that we can even slightly gauge the backgrounds of people, where they come from, and the stories behind their lives that shape people into who they are. 

But why did marking “yes” always feel so difficult and confusing to me growing up? I never really knew what category I was supposed to belong to. Was I Hispanic because my parents are? Or was I American because I was born in the United States? Concepts that my seven-year-old brain could not always wrap my mind around. It was only when I started paying more attention to the people around me in school that I started to gain clarity on the answer to my internal question. 

I would look around at my classmates feeling, “too Hispanic” to fully relate to my American friends and “too American” to fully fit into the Latino community. Small little pocket words that filled my brain, learned from the Spanglish that spoke through the walls of my family’s home all that I was familiar with. Tying my hair up into a bun was referred to as a “moño,” not a hair tie, the little flakes you would get in your hair when your scalp was burnt by the sun at the beach were “caspa,” not dandruff, and the delicious smell of your mom’s cooking at seven in the morning before school was “arepas con queso,” not a pop tart. 

My friends would all have Lunchables, go-go squeeze applesauce pouches, and packaged cheese for lunch and I would pull plantain chips and leftover Bandeja Paisa with empanadas from my lunchbox. 

What is that smell?,” “What the heck are you eating?,” “Ewww, that looks weird!!!” There were new anthems in my head as I was surrounded by those words every day in the school cafeteria. People make you feel bad for being different. For not eating the same stale, bland cafeteria food. But then there were those few people that would wonder what you were eating, not out of disgust, but out of curiosity. Those people who embrace difference, not ones who put shame to it. Sneha, one of my first-ever friends, sat next to me and asked me “Hey, what are you eating? That looks cool.” 

Sneha, not even of Latin American descent, saved my perspective of being a Latino in so many ways. On the verge of a major breakdown for not understanding why I could never fully be like the other kids was suddenly put to rest. Sneha made me understand that it was okay to not be completely like the people around you. You don’t have to satisfy anyone’s checkbox. You can just embrace the fact that you can check several. You can embrace that there are several sides to who you are and that the reason you feel like you don’t fully belong is that you weren’t meant to be confined to a checkbox. You were meant to be uniquely yourself. 

So here goes nothing…

My name is Natasha Cuestas. I am the daughter of two immigrant parents from Colombia, South America. A daughter born into a Hispanic heritage but within the confines of the United States. Although my parents are both originally from Colombia, they spent most of their young adult life growing up in the States to raise their children together in a small town named Johns Creek a little ways outside of downtown Atlanta, Georgia. An area of much opportunity for our family to grow and thrive. 

My family’s heritage has shaped me into the young, brown-haired, brown-eyed, half-speaking, half-just-understanding Spanish language type of daughter that I am today. A daughter not embarrassed of my lack of full immersion into my culture, but a daughter who embraces the opportunities I was given within the gray area. 

It has led me here today to encourage all of you who are reading this. If you feel like you fall into a gray area of society, embrace every shade of gray within you. 

Living in the in-between. 

Con Amor

Naty Cuestas

Natasha Cuestas is a writer for Her Campus at North Carolina State University. She is currently a Junior studying Political Science with bright aspirations to work for the United Nations one day. She is very passionate about humanitarian aid, service work, and the power of creating change on a local community scale to eliminate food deserts. Natasha has been invested in leadership opportunities since she was in high school where she became a part of several National Honor Society Programs and Student Council boards. During this time, Natasha also worked closely with her hometown's Police Department in community outreach programs such as drug resistance and awareness programs as well as volunteered to fundraise supplies, food, and shoes for local low-economic status families. She attended her first year of undergrad at Georgia State University and later transferred into North Carolina State University where she is now a Junior Majoring in Political Science with a Minor in Global Leadership and Team Development. Natasha was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia in a family of five with parents originally from Colombia, South America. With the inspiration and guidance of her family, she enjoys making all forms of creative art, connecting with others through the cultural experiences of traveling, and learning new and exciting things all the time. You can always find Natasha either in an art store, a beauty store, or enjoying a beautiful hike outside. ❤️