Friday, October 18, 2013

My Identity, Her Heritage.

As we leave Hispanic Heritage Month & El Dia De La Raza behind this year, I've started to reflect on my identity once again. Not for me, but for my daughter. Identifying myself as a Latina but also as an "American" was difficult.  However, the environment I grew up in aided in creating a strong sense of identity -- Latino parents, growing up in the most diverse city in the world and peers with similar background. On the other hand my daughter will grow up under different social conditions.  And this is where my reflection lies...will I be able to instill our heritage enough where she can have a strong sense and confidence of her identity?

Having Latino immigrant parents and born in the United States exposed me two two worlds very different from one another. It gave me two languages and sometimes completely different cultural customs. From food, music, art, literature and even manners I had to live in two worlds all at once. While there were feelings of frustrations there was also a sense of pride. Looking at the world from a broader lens gave me the sense of being proud of being bicultural. Coming from an interracial family, my daughter is already exposed to two worlds + one -- the Latino, American and bicultural world. Her first years she will see the world in many shades and hopefully this can aid her to build a strong foundation and sense of pride in where she comes from.

Growing up in New York City and living there the first 27 years of my life gave me the gift of diversity. A gift which gave me the sense of loving who I am, for who I am! The children I played with, to the places I dined, shopped and simply lived my life were of different backgrounds. The varying socio-economic structures of the City gave me a sense of confidence in which I was not brought to hate myself or reject who I was or where I came from. Instead it taught me to embrace and love my diversity because I represented what New York City was all about. With an unfortunate level of gentrification in New York City, this diversity has been pushed more toward the suburbs, rapidly. While still predominantly white (54.7%, according the U.S. Census), Long Island is rapidly shifting away from a monocultural way of life. Presenting a positive and more contemporary environment for future generations.

Peers of a similar bicultural way of life, definitely aided in comforting and strengthening me throughout the years. I was growing up in two worlds and regardless of race, sex, gender, or ethnicity there were others who could relate . A sense of solidarity and comfort grew through these friendships. The unfortunate and inevitable pace of New York City's gentrification, brings upon a new light on suburbs of the Long Island area. People of diverse socio-economic backgrounds, contribute to all ages.

On a positive note, the environment my daughter will be growing up in seems promising. However suburbia's monocultural reputation perpetuating xenophobia and prejudices towards anything different from the "America way of life" does seem to be an obstacle she might have to face. Living here three years I have met, heard, seen, experienced the negative part of old suburbia. And I cannot keep myself from wondering will this "old school" way of thinking be passed down to future generations, including my child's? Will she be shamed away from her roots as I've met and known other Latinos in the area to do so. Or will my skepticism be proved wrong and change truly be present throughout her life.

All I can do for now is celebrate, educate and bring her heritage to life through family and what I've known and experienced living in more than world. Hoping that one day she too will embrace her Latinidad and represent it the way she chooses with pride.