Many Latinos are born and raised into a culture where we know who we are, where we come from and what’s expected of us. In my case, I was thrown for a loop when my parents decided to live in, quite possibly, the smallest town in New Jersey – Cherry Hill. I was in uncharted territory. My parents both from Central American descent, made sure that my older brother and I knew we were Latino, spoke the language and maintained our roots inside the home, but outside it was a completely different world.
There were white picket fences, town hall meetings, and everyone knew each other. Most importantly, everyone was ideally the same and I grew up thinking I was just like everyone else. I didn’t really think of myself as different until I was the victim of a hate crime in sixth grade. Yet I only realized the importance of that moment when I moved to Miami in 1996. That’s when it finally hit me, “Wow, I was beat up for being Latina.”
When we moved to Miami, I was 13 years old. My world changed completely on my first day of eighth grade; I was hit head on by the culture train. In Miami, it is about what country you are from, what area, what dialect you speak; my eyes uncovered a world I never even knew existed. Who knew that Nicaraguans are different from Cubans, or that Argentinians are different from Puerto Ricans? From the way they greet each other to the way they behave and carry themselves, I slowly started to understand the difference between the many Latin cultures. And let’s not even begin with the personalities. I hate to say it, but some of the stereotypes have validity: Cubans are loud, Colombian women are crazy (I love my Colombian girls, but ladies, you are a bit scary), Venezuelan and Argentinian women have a certain air about them.
And then there is me. Regardless of how long I have lived in Miami, I am still a small town Jersey girl with Gringa tendencies at heart.
It’s been an on-going joke with my friends that I am the whitest Latina ever. It’s in my mannerisms, beliefs, actions, the food I eat, and the music I listen to. Even in college, I opted to join a “white-girl” sorority versus a Latina one because I felt more at home. For me, I was and still am in my little bubble where everyone is nice, trustworthy and honest, and there is no malice. We are humans plain and simple; the color of our skin shouldn’t matter at all. This is the mentality of a “white girl,” since most don’t deal with the stigma that comes with being of a different race.
Even when dating, I am as white as Kelly Clarkson – “Miss Independent.” I believe in going “Dutch” when out on a date. I take on relationships as if they are a scene from The Notebook. I want to be the couple on the front page of TheKnot.com, which is different than the typical Latino couple. A relationship for Latinos involves the entire family. In my world, when my partner and I say “I do” it’s about us.
I wouldn’t have it any other way. As I continue to learn more about my culture and embrace my roots, I hope to take a little of both with me, and find the balance between both worlds as a true Gringa Latina.