Photo of a "Love" sign

When Cultures Meet: Dating an American as a Latina

Miami is the place where Spanish and English mingle in the air, creating a perfect symphony otherwise known as Spanglish. Ventanitas sell Cuban coffee, and croquetas are essential staples of the local gastronomy. Meanwhile, hip-hop is heard at Lincoln Road when urban dancers break dance their way into earning some extra cash from passersby. The thumping rhythm is accompanied by salsa’s tropical groove booming from neighboring restaurants. The city of Miami is a melting pot of cultures. 

Meanwhile, Caracas, my homeplace, is not quite as diverse. Immigration from different countries stagnated due to Venezuela’s current crisis. In previous decades, people from around the world would come and contribute with new flavors and languages. Yet, nowadays, most citizens are Venezuelan. In Caracas, Spanish words flow across every alley and street. Reggaeton, salsa, bachata and merengue play in every radio station. Venezuelans date Venezuelans. Homogeneity is at the core of the city’s culture. 

Before coming to Notre Dame I envisioned my parent’s life for myself. I would study abroad, come back to Caracas, and — hopefully —  date a nice Venezuelan guy my parents would love. He would most probably be connected in one way or another to my friend circle. Actually, we would most likely meet through a mutual friend. His experience would be very similar to mine.

But, that’s not exactly what happened.

Dome pic Meg Pryor

Considering that only a handful of Venezuelans attend Notre Dame, I had already given up on the idea of finding love with one of my fellow countrymen. Maybe I would have a boyfriend from another Latin American nation — after all, he could understand my culture and experience. Thus, dating an American was never part of the plan. However, life just has a funny way of working; it throws curveballs when you least expect it. 

Despite my previous ideas, I now find myself with an American boyfriend. It’s not that I sought a particular citizenship or held someone’s place of origin as a dating requirement, but I just thought that being with someone with a similar background would be considerably easier. If you asked me if I would ever date a “gringo” when I was a freshman, I would have probably said no. After all, how could I share my feelings in a language different from Spanish? Wouldn’t our cultures inevitably clash?

When I met him, I never stopped to think how this would even play out. His hazel eyes and cute dimples erased these questions from mind. I only remembered I had ever held these beliefs when a fellow Latina asked me how it felt to be dating a gringo. She wondered if it was any different.

Yes and no.

I do not say “te quiero” like I would to a Latino. I had to show him what an arepa was. I have to explain who a few Latino artists are. Of course there are things he does not know because he was not raised in Latin America. In that respect, dating a gringo is different.

Taco with corn and salsa Photo by Constanze Riechert-Kurtze from Pixabay

However, such differences are minimal compared to all the similarities we share. With him, I am as goofy and silly as I would be with any other person. We are really big family people. We have a similar sense of humor. He makes me laugh the hardest and feel the most out of anybody else. He makes fun of my petiteness while I bother him for being giant. He understands — but not necessarily condones — my addiction to coffee. He makes me so incredibly happy every single day.

 

Those are not things that are limited to a particular culture; they are qualities ANY good and kind person can have. By dating this boy, I have learned that the oceans that separate people are only as big as we want them to be, and that is a fact that transcends dating.

Cities with diverse populations flourish the most, just take Miami and New York City as examples. When a myriad of different cultures meet, innovation ensues. People learn from one another as varying perspectives come together to find solutions. Homogenous populations and workplaces hardly achieve these same results.

New York Jonathan Riley With my American boy, we have built a Miami between the two. I teach him new Spanish words and I sometimes find him exclaiming “uy!” instead of his Midwestern “ope!” — my single greatest accomplishment. He opened my world to cheese curds and even showed me how to play basketball despite my diminutive frame. His family welcomed me even though they do not speak Spanish. He feels like home to me even if he is not Venezuelan.

At the end of the day, love is truly a universal feeling and it transcends cultures when we give it a chance.