Stuck Between Two Cultures

As a daughter of Peruvian immigrants, and as a natural-born American citizen, I often feel torn between two cultures. Growing up in Miami, I was exposed to all kinds of Latin American cultures and food. I am forever grateful for the sacrifices that my parents made to come to this country to build a family where their two children could attend college and become the professionals they wished to be, but this hasn’t stopped me from feeling confused about my Latinx-American identity.

I learned to speak Spanish before I learned how to speak English. I didn’t learn English until I was about five years old. Residing in Miami, I lived in a bubble that allowed me to see diversity, but it was very focused on the Latino community. It wasn’t until I started my time at UF that I realized I truly am different. Not everyone learned to speak Spanish before English, not everyone understood my Latino household, and not everyone wanted immigrants like my family in this country. I was mistaken as a Mexican, I was asked where Peru was located, and I was looked at judgingly when I spoke in Spanish to my mom on the phone.

When I’m asked “Where are you from?” saying I’m from Florida doesn’t suffice. I’m interrogated even further with an awkward “But where are you really from?” It’s frustrating to say the very least, and I get defensive. My brown skin and my last name will never allow me to simply say I’m from Florida. Saying my parents are Peruvian seems to satisfy their perception of my identity more than me identifying as an American.

Although my Spanish is nearly perfect and I fall into the “Peruvian stereotype” in terms of appearance, when I’m in Peru I get funny looks when I speak in Spanish. They sense I am not of them. They sense it because I have not lived in that country. The longest trip to Peru I’ve had lasted three weeks, but I visit regularly, traveling to Peru for two weeks every two years. I also feel truly connected to the culture, because my parents raised me that way. They introduced me to Peruvian food, they exposed me to Peruvian news channels, and I grew up surrounded by Peruvian families. Peruvian slang was like another language I acquired.

When I’m in Peru, I feel more American, but when I’m in America, I feel slightly more Peruvian. I am stuck in an in-between, and I feel that I shouldn’t have to pick just one way of identifying myself. I shouldn’t have to put myself in a box. I am Peruvian-American, an American with Peruvian descent. I am the daughter of immigrants, and not a day goes by that I don’t forget that.

Photo credits: Natalie Cardenas