What I love about being Latina: mi cultura is tan rico with tradition, values, and diversity. I love that mi familia is so close and when we get together we are the loudest on the block. We travel in an entourage and are very protective of one another. The rhythm of nuestra musica makes me fall deeper in love with nuestra cultura. From Salsa and Merengue to Bachata and Ranchera, our music is as diverse as our people. Me encanta que Latinas come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. We have ivory painted skin, honey-strewn hair, and sapphire eyes. We have chocolate dipped skin, long flowing hair, dark as the midnight sky, and eyes that are warm and as brown as cafe. The scent and rich flavor of Mami’s cooking fills my belly with such love and pride. Love and pride about being who I am. Being Latina. The strong and independent Latina Mami raised me to be.
What I love about being Americana: I am given the choices, freedoms and voice very few women have. I have the opportunity to make changes, reach out to the less fortunate, be a role model and inspire others. I am a fourth generation Americana on my Mother’s side, who is of Lithuanian and Mexican American descent, and first generation my Dad’s side, so I have the best of both worlds. I have the education many only dream of. As an Americana, I can break down the barriers that divide in hopes that the next person will reflect before they stereotype. I recently traveled to my Father’s hometown in Mexico, and nowhere did I feel like such as an Americana as I did there. Although I was wholeheartedly embraced, I felt torn between two different worlds. The world I knew growing up as an Americana, and the one that runs deeper. The one that is the blood in my veins, love in my heart, and spirit in my body.
My biggest challenge in growing up Latina in America: fighting the stereotypes. It has always been a constant battle against those who like to slap a label on someone who is different. To some Latinos, I wasn’t brown enough. To some Gringos, I wasn’t fair enough. Sometimes I felt as if I didn’t fit in. My Spanish was never perfect enough, so I took courses in college to strive to be better. I’ve come to realize my uniqueness is what being a Latina is all about. A Latina doesn’t conform, she transforms.
My biggest support in growing up Latina in America: Mami. She is what built me up to what I am today. Her unconditional love, sacrifices, unselfishness and constant support are the qualities that embody a Latina Mother. She worked two jobs to support my sister and I. She made sure we always had presents at Christmas, new school clothes, and a full belly at every meal. Yet she would have ripped, raggedy clothes and ache from hunger. To her, our happiness was her happiness. Although she dropped out of college, she always instilled in me the importance of a college education. I was the first in my family to earn a Bachelors Degree. She was bursting with pride at my graduation ceremony, like she was at every past tennis match, track meet, flute recital and play I was in growing up. She has been my biggest supporter, confidante, and best friend. I hope to be as good a mother to my son as she is to me.
Why I am beautiful: I’m beautiful, not only because I’m Latina, but because I see the beauty in others. The beauty in life, in God, and the world. Our bodies are only temporary, so beauty within us is so much more significant than what is on the outside. True beauty is something instilled within us, a quality passed on through generations. Our Latino ancestors passed on this beauty, and it is our duty to pass it on to the next generation. True beauty is helping others, being unselfish, confident, independent and standing up for our beliefs. Nuestra cultura is the rainbow after the storm. So extraordinary, colorful, vibrant and alive. This is the essence of being a Latina. This strength, fearlessness and exquisite beauty is what makes a Latina. And because I embrace this, I am a beautiful Latina.