• Chantal Canales

Soy Latina, Pero...

When you look at me, you wouldn't guess that I am Latina. My "pale porcelain skin" as my parents call it, doesn't really allow you to arrive to that conclusion. My lack of speaking Spanish fluently doesn't help either. And for that, and another million reasons, I don't feel connected to my Latin heritage as much as I could be.


I was born on a Caribbean island called to Curacao to my mom that always called the small mound of land home, and my dad, an American born abroad in Torreón, Mexico. In my house, my parents constantly spoke Spanish to each other, and they tried to teach me and my younger sister, but being in elementary school surrounded by mostly white kids that only spoke English, I was never encouraged to ask my parents "¿Como se dice (insert English word here)?".


My mom's side of the family remains in Curacao, all within spitting distance of one another with how small the island is. Being a Dutch island, my mom grew up speaking the native language Papiamento, Spanish, Dutch and English. I am no where near the polygot she is. She learned Spanish simply by watching novelas on TV, and believe me, I have tried learning Spanish that way. Arepas and the iconic pastel-painted buildings are all I know of Curacao. The only connection I have to any family there is saying hi to my relatives over the phone on rare occasions.


The only real connection that I had to my Mexican heritage is to my dad's family in San Antonio. Nine uncles and aunts, 24 first cousins and I don't even know how many second cousins make me feel connected to my Mexican culture. Gatherings of the large family in someone's large kitchen involved me being greeted by tons of besitos and being called "linda" and "hermosa" by relatives I haven't seen in years. The kitchen would be full of food, whether it be enchiliadas or tacos, I didn't care. Family members would yell lovingly at each other about growing up together, all while getting drunk on laughter and liquor. On special occasions, a mariachi band would magically appear, and everyone would sing along together to the music. My head still rings to my relatives singing "Canta No Llores" while grabbing the nearest person and swaying together and swigging their beer.


There have been people in my life that question my culture. They would say that I'm not Mexican enough. Or that I'm too pale to be be Latina. That I can't be Mexican and not speak Spanish.


Everyone around me is defined by their culture. The clothes they wear, the lanugage they speak and the food they eat make them unique. I eat the food and I speak "un poco" of the language, and I am proud to be Latina. My lack of speaking the language doesn't make me less of a Latina, but sometimes the world tells me it is. If I am not as strong in my culture, does that make me less of Latina?


No.


I am Latina. By my own terms. No one can tell me if I am Latina enough, because I already feel conflicted enough about my culture. I am Latina and proud, regardless of how uncoventional I may be. I will continue to watch my Netflix Spanish novelas, eating enchiladas verdes and saying random phrases in Spanish to my friends and family.


Being Latinx means something different to everyone. To me, it's about learning about my background through family, through food, through language, and through history. It's about learning and understanding my background, my way.


You soy Latina. And proud of it.