My sister and I were recently asked where we were from and she quickly blurted out: “From Miami.” And I immediately corrected her: “You might be from Miami, but I’m from Peru.”
Nothing wrong with Miami, but I don’t feel at all like that’s where I’m from, even though I’ve spent the majority of my life there – 19 of the 24 years I’ve been in this country. I’m still Peruvian and nothing conjures up memories of ‘home’ more than Peru, even if I only lived there until I was 14. That’s where my grandmother, uncles, aunts, godparents, cousins, nieces, nephews and a whole bunch of friends still live. It’s where I, and my whole family, was born and where I hope to retire one day.
All this got me thinking about how we identify ourselves and why, especially as it relates to my two children. I never really liked the term ‘Hispanic’ and I’ve learned to embrace ‘Latina,’ but deep down inside, I’m really just Peruvian. For my kids, however, it’s a completely different deal.
While they were both born here, which makes them American (and I know it could be argued that anyone from either South or North America is American, but that’s a subject for another time), both their parents are immigrants. Their father was born and raised in Puerto Rico, which, while technically a colony of the United States, is still another country, with another language and another culture.
I often wonder how my kids will identify themselves when they grow up because I think it would be catastrophic for my kids not to appreciate where they came from, but my husband finds it amusing and often asks me if it really matters.
Of course it matters! If you don’t know where you came from how can you possible know who you are? Right?
I don’t know what will ultimately define my children’s identity, but I surely hope all I’m doing to raise them both bilingual and bicultural sticks and they are proud of their raíces… all of them!
Roxana A. Soto is an Emmy-winning Peruvian-born, Denver-based bilingual journalist and the co-founder of SpanglishBaby.com.