Throughout my childhood, I never once questioned my position in the world as Latina. I carelessly moved about the world knowing I was a part of a long lineage of Mexican ancestors who came before me. While I may not have been completely aware, nor cognizant, of it, the differences were there — and obvious. My favorite meals were Mexican, as were our traditions. I wore gold semanario bracelets that glided with the music during family fiestas. Evenings were filled with my mother’s attempts to tame the next day’s frizz. While my frizzy curls were inescapable, the heavenly smell was welcomed.
Am I Latina enough?
Spanglish was spoken inside my home as a kid. I never minded the gaps where my English filled the spaces in my mother’s native tongue. By the time I reached the peak of growing pains, suddenly the gaps in my speech mattered. I constantly fell short in being accepted by my own community. It was like trying to walk on uneven grounds — it was inevitable that I’d fall at every attempt. To keep up with what was expected of me was impossible. I was bound to fail, and that’s exactly what I did.
Am I Latina if I’m not fluent in my mother’s spoken language? What about if I’ve never stepped foot in her birthplace? So many questions and so many of them left unanswered.
Am I Latina enough?
Instead of searching for answers, I decided that if I wasn’t considered Latina by my Latine peers, I wasn’t going to waste my time trying to prove myself. What I didn’t know was that I would then begin to assimilate with the remainder of society. I never pronounced my name the way it was meant to be said, I rarely listened to Spanish music nor did I openly express my heritage. However, this slowly began to change.
Maybe I am Latina enough.
The shift started by the time I reached university. Being away from my small town with its high population of Latine individuals, I began to miss all that I had failed to appreciate. Like a stitch coming undone, I let go of my need to prove myself to those who just wouldn’t listen and saved that energy for other matters.
Now, I’m allowing myself to display my adoration for Mexican culture and all the beauty it possesses. Contrary to the cultural impostor syndrome I felt a few years ago, I’m now in a space to be myself. My roommates and I like to joke that we’re in our “Latina era.” While this feels silly to admit, it’s our own unique way of doing things that guide us back to our roots. Familiar fragrances waft through our apartment while we cook meals similar to, though not exactly, our mothers’ own recipes. A print of La Virgen de Guadalupe and an ofrenda in progress are both just glimpses of what you might encounter.
I am Latina enough.
These are just a few of the ways I’m getting in touch with my heritage. This slow process of unlearning and continually growing is one that will never reach its end. The truth is, there’s no such thing as not being Latina enough. There’s only me, and there’s only you. I’ve come to learn that this is the best possible outcome.