Embracing Your Ethnicity

Growing up, it was always difficult for me to find a group of friends that I felt I could be 100 percent myself with. Most of the time, friend groups were created based on common interests as well as physical similarities- kids would gravitate toward those who looked and acted the same as they would. Not only did I have different personal interests from those I went to school with, I am of Hispanic and Pacific Island heritage.

Being that my mom is Peruvian and my dad is Filipino, I got the best of both worlds when it came to the cultures. Since the languages are so different, neither Spanish nor Tagalog were spoken in the house so I never was able to speak fluently in anything other than English. I never felt more connected to one culture than the other but I felt connected enough to each one to feel full-blooded Filipino or full-blooded Peruvian, depending on my setting.

In elementary school, making friends was easier. Most of my friends in elementary school coincidentally were Latino or Asian. As I went through middle school and high school, cliques began to form and by human nature, kids of the same race naturally gravitated toward one another.

I thought, well, being both Hispanic and Asian, where would I fit in more? This question stayed in the back of my mind throughout my years in middle school and high school. I came to figure out that I was too Spanish to hang out with Asians but not Spanish enough to hang out with the Spanish kids. Eventually I found a group of friends with a mixture of different cultures including Hispanic, Asian and Indian.

For a while, I stayed with my group of friends and I felt that we thrived off the amount of diversity we had within the group. Although we had different interests in some aspects, I felt that opposites attracted. I loved to dance, especially salsa and bachata. I listened to Spanish music whenever I could. I loved exploring new food, customs and aspects of the Filipino culture as I prepared and traveled to the Philippines. I enjoyed English and creative writing while my friends excelled in math and science. I was open to learning about new places and learning about cultures that I was unfamiliar with. I didn't expect every single one of my friends to relate to most of my interests, but I did expect them to respect and accept me for who I was because I respected and accepted them for who they were. Here and there, you would hear jokes made about each-others races and stereotypes would be referred to; all was harmless to an extent.

After a while, I felt some kind of competition rising between the races. The stereotypes were being thrown at me left and right. The Spanish ones were easier to throw out there simply because I looked more Spanish than Filipino. I was also called a fake Asian and that I don’t even count as Spanish because I am only half. The comments and stereotypes didn’t feel like jokes anymore and for a while, I couldn’t find my sense of self. I began to think, if I could be mocked and derided by my friends simply for my ethnicity, how could other people who don’t share the same interests as I do see me?

Things didn’t start getting better until I left my town and went to college. I met new people, was surrounded by diversity and positivity and overall, acceptance. I met people of all races and colors, all beautiful and different in every way. It didn’t matter the color of my skin, my background or my ethnicity. I was given the opportunity to participate in whatever I wanted to do, join whatever clubs I wanted without feeling inferior. My friends now find my ethnicity interesting and unique and enjoy hearing me talk about the customs and traditions of both my cultures.

Although middle school and high school were full of rough patches, its taught me to never forget my roots and where I come from. Its taught me that no matter what anyone says or thinks, I will always be a proud Latina Filipina woman. I’m not more of one than the other, I’m not a “fake” version of either one. I am who I am and I’m proud of the person I’ve become.

We, as women, come in so many different shapes, sizes, races, and colors and are all beautiful and different in every way. No matter where you come from and where your ancestors come from, never lose sight of who you are and what you stand for. Don’t fall into society’s outdated generalizations. Take pride in your colors, they will never fade.