I was born in Los Angeles, a diverse city full of people from all walks of life. I grew up in a neighborhood that was predominantly Hispanic, but even then, it was difficult to grow up Hispanic.
My parents are from Mexico, but my siblings and I are the first generation born in the USA. This meant that we were the guinea pigs in the family. We had no idea how to do things at school. It wasn’t easy with Spanish being our first language.
Thanksgiving became a day of gathering for my family where we expressed our gratitude for what we had around the table.
On the fourth of July, my parents realized that these festivities were all about the red, white and blue. They took us to the park to see the fireworks and to show our American pride.
But none of that impeded us from keeping our Mexican traditions. Was it really Christmas if there weren’t tamales and champurrado? Was it really a family dinner without tortillas and rice on the table? Was it really a Friday night if you didn’t sit with your abuela to watch a soap opera? No, it wasn’t. Growing up Hispanic, everything was full of delicious food, different accents and loud parties.
It wasn’t all fun and games, though. Being Hispanic, I had to translate for my parents because they couldn’t speak or understand English. Their U.S. lives are the result of my learning to speak and write in school.
The majority of kids speak fluently because their parents expose them to the language. I was building my vocabulary through reading. My parents and I were integrated into American culture, but I had to manage both cultures.
Many underestimate the amount of work that Hispanics do to form a part of this country. Many come with nothing else but the clothes on their backs and a determination to create opportunities for themselves.
Hispanics (and other immigrants) start with nothing and build up. They learn the language, familiarize themselves with social norms and they leave their birth country behind. They only know that they will reach a new place to prosper and see their children achieve great things.
So, thank you mom and dad. You did it. You gave me the best life I could have ever imagined.
Translated by Paula Ninataype