When I was a student at Rutger’s College, there was a girl that asked me, “What Ethnic Background Do you Subscribe To?”
I asked, “Huh, what did you just say?”, as I laughed incredibly hard.
I honestly can not recall if she explained her response to me the following way or if this is my mind’s molded interpretation. She explained that it was no longer politically correct to ask someone where they were from, since most people were from the United States, and they would reply with the states location they were from. If you wanted to know where their family came here from, you asked her question her way. For me, with the mixing and dipping from culture to culture, how truly clever was her way of asking?
What ethnic background do I subscribe to? Well, that’s a loaded question. My mother is Guatemalan, my father Peruvian. My mom remarried when I was young, to my Cuban step dad so there’s a Cuban infusion I cannot deny. While I look incredibly ethnic, at least in my eyes, I am also very American. I was born and raised in Jersey. I grew up in Plainfield, and as a child, the population in our Queens city, felt like 70% African American 15% White, 10% Hispanic and 5% all others. In pre school I was the only Latina in the school! Can you imagine? I asked my mom, why I didn’t have the same beautiful chocolate skin my friends had. In Kindergarten there were a few other Latino children.
I grew up listening to Rap and the then newly invented Hip Hop. My best friends were African American and all through Elementary school, I was a minority within an already minority group. Many times, I felt I didn’t fit in, an outcast in a pool of culture. Some of my Guatemalan family members, made fun of my Peruvian Side and yet I never felt fully accepted by my Peruvian side. African Americans and White’s alike, looked at me as the “Spanish” girl who was shy and reserved. I didn’t fit in anywhere.
It wasn’t until middle school that I made my first real Latina friend and I also befriended a Phillipina. It was at that time I was exposed to other cultures other than what I had been surrounded with at home and at school. I was in love with the Dominican culture from the food to the music. During high school, the Latin and Asian population grew a bit. I met Colombians, Salvadorians, Mexicans, Ecuadorians and a few Vietnamese people. I realized we are all so many different peas in one pod. I ended up marrying an Ecuadorian, and while that culture is extremely similar to Peruvians, its still another ethnicity on its own. So my kids have all kinds of infusions and boy what a mix!
So when people ask me now, “where are you from?”, because it is still a common question, I usually respond, I am half Guatemalan, half Peruvian, raised with a Cuban, Born in Jersey. Sometimes I may just say I’m from Jersey. Other times I smile and begin my story.