I am the granddaughter of a Dominican immigrant who was born and raised in the city of Santo Domingo, who left behind everything she knew to chase her dreams in America.
I am the granddaughter of Puerto Ricans who left behind an economic disaster in hopes for a better life in the city that never sleeps.
I grew up knowing how to dance because my family always knew how to throw a party with our brugal or coquito.
I grew up cleaning the house every Sunday even when I wanted to be lazy and do nothing.
I grew up having Vapo rub and sancocho whenever I was sick because my family believed that was the magic cure.
I grew up watching all my tíos play dominos without me until I turned 15-years-old and was finally allowed to play.
I grew up having a mini identity crisis whenever I had to fill out a form that said, “Despite what you have just answered, please fill out what is your race.”
I grew up loving the New York Yankees, screaming from the bleachers every summer with my dad.
I grew up knowing how to refill my metro card in under a minute before the train leaves my station.
I grew up hearing “It’s showtime!” on the train before street dancers start performing and I duck in cover in hopes of not getting hit.
I grew up knowing to go to the food carts that sell halal and to never get anything at the hot dog stands.
I grew up thinking I was going to be Kim Possible one day, save people from mass destruction and be a badass.
I also grew up learning English as my primary language to assimilate to American society, which is why my Spanish sounds “funny.”
I grew up straightening my hair so that way I could avoid having “messy” and “unprofessional” hair.
I grew up giving myself anxiety about my grades at 13-years-old because I felt like I had constantly had to prove something to American society.
I also grew up having to show the other Hispanic kids what my dad looked like in order to prove that I was really Dominican.
I grew up confused about why the Puerto Rican kids and the Dominican kids would start fighting each other when I was Puerto Rican and Dominican.
I grew up hearing “why don’t you speak Spanish?” or whenever I did speak Spanish, I would hear “You sound so white.”
Make no mistake with my identity, I am Puerto Rican and Dominican but, I also am American. I am the embodiment of 3 distinct cultures, I cannot be one without being the other.
But isn’t that what being Latino is all about? The embodiment of different cultures?
The embodiment of our indigenous ancestors, the connection to our African roots and the history we share with the Iberian Peninsula.
Or have we become consumed with this narrow criteria of being Latino that we have forgotten that?
Every day I continue to wake up, look in the mirror and be proud to be Latino, proud to represent Latinos in America.
And although I may not meet the standards to be Latino, you can never take away that part of my identity.