Growing up in Boston, a city known for its diversity and acceptance of all cultures and identities, it did not always feel like that. I grew up in Puerto Rican home and was raised by the grandmother who only spoke Spanish. I have always been proud of my Puerto Rican nationality and the customs and traditions that come along with it. Growing up however, the only custom I was hesitant about practicing was the language. I did not want to have an accent as I know it would have brought on unwanted attention and bullying. Not actively speaking the language is something I regret to this day; as I had so many years to practice it with my grandmother and be able to prefect the Puerto Rican accent.
In high school, I began to realize how important the Spanish language is to my Puerto Rican identity as I became friends with more Latino people who could speak fluently. In a way, I felt ashamed that I would not contribute fully. I could speak, read, and write the basics and understand it fluently, but I wanted more. I took Spanish in school to gain more knowledge and began to speak to my family in Spanish to practice more and gain more confidence.
While taking my Spanish language exam for my college courses, the department head told me that I passed out of all the grammar language courses and would need to go into the cultural courses, which were all taught in Spanish. At first, I was hesitant but knew this was my opportunity to fully practice and embrace the language while learning about Latin America. I am grateful that my family did not force me or make me feel like an outsider for not wanting to speak Spanish as a child. They let me grow and let me find the importance that the language would have in me.
Who would have thought these courses would be a critical part of my college experience and start my curiosity into the region. I was one of two students in the Latin American Studies minor at my college and was able to focus my major business courseworkwith the region. I wanted to learn all aspects about Latin America; not just Puerto Rico. I visited Cuba and studied abroad in Chile, and both these experiences challenged the way I see myself and the country I call home. The United States does not have a good reputation in Latin America and that made me embrace my Puerto Rican identity even more.
The person I am today was made by the guidance of Puerto Rican women. The food I love to cook, the desserts I love to bake, and the music I listen to; all come from the influence of the people who raised me. I seek out people who are also ethnic and come from a diverse background just because I know there are some aspects that we can connect to. I am a white Puerto Rican, but by looking at me people can tell I am Latino by my curly hair and olive skin. My name gives me away as Latino and I am so proud of it and its uniqueness. My Spanish, African and Taino ancestors and their struggles and achievements run through me and continue to guide me and all my actions.