Growing up Latina was a very special, and unique experience. It is something that I did not truly appreciate growing up. When I was a little girl, I wanted to fit in with all my friends, and being the only Latina in my friend group, I would always try to avoid the conversation when it came up. I did not like to talk about my culture, because I did not want to be different. But now I realize how wrong I was for doing that.
When I was little, my parents had several Latino friends. Latinos love celebrating every occasion, so when it was someone’s birthday, there was a party; when someone got baptized, there was a party; when there was a Pay Per View boxing match on, there was a party; you name it, and there was a party. The best part was the food: empanadas, tamales, pollito, taquitos, and so much more, and it was all authentic! We gathered together, because we loved being around each other, and we supported one another.
Our Latino community could depend on each other no matter what. My babysitter, Lety, took care of me for several years when my mom worked. Even when she was no longer my babysitter, she still went out of her way, at times, to take care of me. I remember one year my mom could not be home to help me get ready for my middle school dance, and Lety came to my house, and made me look beautiful. When I was in college, my car broke down, and our Latino friends drove all the way to my college town to hook my car up to a truck, and bring it home. We’ll do anything to help each other.
My Latino community was special, because all of our families were first generation in the United States. Although most of the families I knew came from Mexico, not all of us were Mexican. My family, in particular, is from Nicaragua. I came to the United States when I was three years old. My mom and I lived in Chicago at the time, and I started my education in Spanish, at a bilingual school. I learned English when I was in the first grade. That is something we all had in common: we all learned English at some point. Not everyone’s English was perfect, but it never stopped us from achieving our goals.
I think that when I was in high school and college, I lost a little bit of my culture. I think that was because the majority of my friends and the people I surrounded myself with in school were not Latinos. However, as I matured, I realized that I do not have to pick one. I do not have to pick being American or being Latina, because I am both. I cannot be Latina without being American, and I cannot be American without being Latina.
I am so proud of being Nicaraguan, and being Latina. I love speaking my first language with my mom, and with people I meet that know Spanish. I love watching my mom cook her Nicaraguan specialties, and savoring our favorite dishes. I love knowing that there will always be people who have my back, and who will always support me.
Being Latina has given me confidence, uniqueness, growth, and perspective. I tell anyone I can about my culture, and where I come from. I am who I am, because I am something very special: Latina.