Employee Perspectives

Caught Between Two Identities

November 2, 2020

By Barbara Lopez, Manager

My Latina experience looks very much like everyone else’s. Spanish is my first language and family comes above all else, with food a close second. My big, Latin family instilled in me the notion that everything I have or will have in life, I need to work for. I wouldn’t trade the excruciatingly long happy birthday songs or the extremely nosey family members for anything else in the world. I am who I am because I am Venezuelan.

My American experience, however, may be a bit different from other Latinas. My parents are first generation Venezuelans. My paternal grandparents were from Spain and my maternal grandparents are from Italy. As a result, I do not look like your average Latina.

Members of the Latinx community tend to avoid associating themselves with a specific race, yet we oftentimes see our community generalized into common negative stereotypes. For me, growing up here was easy. I am very aware of the privilege I have because of the way I look. I never once had to worry that I wasn’t going to get an opportunity or be looked down upon because of who I am. I have never had someone second-guess my citizenship or my right to be in this country. Most of my acquaintances growing up probably don’t know, to this day, that I didn’t become a U.S. citizen until I was in high school.

I am constantly in an internal battle with myself over my identity. Am I Latina enough? Am I American enough? Should I feel bad that I prefer an empanada to a PB&J sandwich, but rather listen to country music than to reggaeton?

I often overhear someone talk negatively about me in Spanish, not knowing I could understand. At the same time, people’s attitudes towards me have changed the moment they find out I wasn’t born in this country. But in a time where many may feel like the America we live in isn’t the America we love, I can still honestly tell you that I also am who I am because I am American.