What My Dual Citizenship Has Taught Me

For some people, “Where are you from?” is one of the hardest questions to be asked. If, like me, you’ve grown up living in more than one country, city, state, or in a family with multiple backgrounds and ethnicities, then this is not at all a straightforward question to answer. Sure you can answer where you were born, but you may have grown up spending years of your childhood in one place, a few months in another, and then your adolescence in a completely different environment.

My mom is a Cuban-American U.S. citizen with permanent residence in Brazil while being married to a Taiwanese-Brazilian dual citizen. My dad is a dual citizen of Brazil and Spain who currently resides in Mexico. I was born in Brazil and have been a dual citizen of Brazil and the United States since birth, but I’ve lived in 4 countries and 5 cities throughout my life. This can seem overwhelming to some, but for me it’s just a reality of my life, and for so many others whom I’ve met in college and throughout my travels.

It is such a blessing to say that I am as much Brazilian as I am American, but it can be frustrating when others try to diminish my relationship to one country or city due to factors that they may not understand. A lot of people hear that I was born in Brazil and assume that it’s where I’m from, when in reality, it’s just one of the many factors that make up the tapestry of my identity.

Sometimes my friends will reminisce over their elementary school years, talking about when they had to memorize the 50 states and capitals and have history lessons about the Civil War. I’ve never learned about that because I was in a school that required me to memorize the 27 states and capitals of Brazil, but it doesn’t make me any less American. I still participate fully in my American life and identity, contributing to it personally, economically, and intellectually every day as a student and citizen. Maybe some people don’t understand that, but ultimately it’s up to me to decide. Since moving to America, I've adopted tons of American mannerisms, holidays, and ways of being that are really different from Brazil, but it doesn't mean that I'm forgetting about my other home country in the process. My life is a combination of looking forward to Thanksgiving, but not understanding football at the slightest and opting for soccer instead. My family and I are the only ones in our neighborhood to celebrate Carnival in February to kick off Lent, but we also go to pool parties and barbecues on the 4th of July. We really are both Brazilian and American, and both these halves coexist in everything we do.

Recently, this question came up yet again about where I am from, and I expressed to the person who asked me how flustered I get when answering. I never know where to start: should I tell them where I was born and the chronological order of cities where I have lived? Should I stick with the city I lived in prior to coming to college? After expressing this frustration, this person rephrased their question in a way that I have since adopted as my new way of inquiring into people’s homes: “Where are you a local?” 


[Feature Image by Unsplash]