Growing Up Latina

written by Stephanie Puente

I was born in the United States, but my parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents were born in different parts of Mexico. My dad and grandma only speak Spanish, which made it very difficult for me to communicate with them because I was accustomed to the English language. As I got older, I took Spanish classes and was becoming fluent in the language. I was very afraid to speak Spanish because we live in El Paso where the majority of people speak Spanish and judge you for not knowing Spanish well. I think this mentality made me question my identity as a Latina because my appearance does not look Latina, so many people always asked me if I spoke Spanish. I began to doubt my identity because of the lack of fluency in the language, but it was through my culture that I was able to gain confidence in who I am.

In my culture, food, traditions, and family plays a huge impact in who we are. For example, during Christmas, my family always gets together to help make tamales. It is part of our tradition and we are able to spend more time together. It was through my family’s customs that I gained more confidence in who I am and began to take pride in my identity. I was able to gain more confidence in speaking Spanish to my family and others, without the fear of being judged. My culture has allowed me to take pride in who I am and not question what others have to say to me about my own identity.

Growing up as a Latina, my biggest fear was not being accepted. However, as I got older, I began to understand that I am me. I am a unique individual and no one can take my identity away from me other than myself.  It is important to believe in who you are and not let others judge how you perceive your own identity. Therefore, I am glad my culture redirected me to believe in my Latina identity when others questioned my role as a Latina.

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