On the wall, it stays. Its intense colors made brighter by the muted taupe paint wallpaper. The intricate tapestry, which I believe is a gift from my great aunt on my mother’s side hangs perpetually by the front door of my home, greeting me each time I enter and exit. The adornment depicts an idyllic narrative: a sea of vibrant pueblos scattered across an open hillside. Although it seldom receives more than a second glance, the archaic heirloom comes to mind almost immediately when pondering the forgotten art of unification. When examined closely, the details of the decorative piece tell a larger tale — the story of me.
The cloth is woven together into an artistic design using many strands of thread, with each strand varying in its thickness, color, texture and so on. Despite the diversity among the threads used, the tapestry still combines to create one cohesive image. This multifarious concoction, intermingling of distinct elements is similar to the architecture of my identity. Raised in a multicultural home and diverse community, I am a product of not only my heritage, but of my interactions, experiences and evolving environment. With each each thread being akin to an element of my being, I am a tapestry, continually being woven. I am many delicate threads woven together to create a singular entity.
“When examined closely, the details of the decorative piece tell a larger tale — the story of me.”
But, what exactly are these threads?
I am an amalgamation, but of what?
When peering at my transcripts, my identity appears. Year: Freshman. Gender: Female. State ID number. On paper, I am merely a 10-digit number, another number in a plethora of millions. There is so much about me, however, that cannot be captured on paper.
I am a passionate Latina who takes after my Peruvian mother. Growing up with lomo saltado for dinner and weekly Skype chats with my extended family of over 18 people, I embrace my Hispanic heritage. I aim to preserve the culture and customs that my mother instilled in me from birth. However, my father, a U.S. citizen from birth, also influences my individuality, and I take pride in the all-American traditions he imparted to me. I look forward to a Thanksgiving feast each year, complete with turkey and stuffing. I even partake in the occasional pigskin toss on sweltering summer evenings. I am a hybrid, a fusion of Latino and Anglo, a greater whole because of the separate parts. Because of my cultural background, I celebrate President’s Day as well as Día de Santa Rosa de Lima, the Day of the Patron Saint of Lima. I commemorate two independence days, follow two presidential elections and speak two tongues. There is more to me because of my unique blend, and for that I am exceptionally grateful.
“I stand on the boundary of my two cultures, with one foot in each.”
However, my bicultural identity is a double-edged sword. I stand on the boundary of my two cultures, with one foot in each. I am split in half. Move my foot to the right, I become Latino, savoring the delicate flavors of my grandmother’s legendary Huancaina sauce. Move to the left, I am an all-American, chewing on PB&J at lunchtime. With my identity, I belong to both cultures, yet I stand as an outsider in each. At times, I feel like an imposter, slipping in and out of my different cultural identities, deciding when to be Peruvian and when to be American. The charade can get exhausting.
Although I often feel an outcast, my bicultural background does not create a rift or chasm in my identity. Instead, it creates a bridge. The merging of my mother and father coalesced two distinct heritages, two unique histories. I am the outcome of this coming together. I am the connection between two worlds.
If I were to create an image of my identity in my mind, I envision a hyphen. In writing, a hyphen is used to join words, inciting and preserving a union between the terms. A hyphen is the bridge between two singular entities. Similarly, I create a connection, embodying both of my cultures. Whether I am engrossed in my mother’s nightly telenovela or watching a baseball match with my father, I bring my cultures together to form a singular person: me. Regarding my identity, I do not choose between Latino or American. I encompass both of my identities together, integrating them as one.
I am Latino and American,
I am Latino-American.