100% is a guest post series focusing on multicultural identity and the unique journey of connecting with more than one culture. To share your story, click here.
I recently had the chance to read Junot Diaz's work for the first time ever, and to my surprise, it has been huge in thinking about my multicultural identity. In his amazing book “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,” there is a part where Diaz begins describing perfectly the reaction, feeling, smells, and emotions the main character Oscar feels as a Dominican-American returning to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
I laughed as I read it because it perfectly described what goes on in my mind every time I return to Guatemala City in Guatemala, my parent's country, but also mine.
There is a great line Diaz attributes to Oscar as the story progresses when he returns to Santo Domingo, a line that I readily identify every time I visit Guatemala as an American: "…after he refused to succumb to that whisper that all long-term immigrants carry inside themselves, the whisper that says You do not belong..."
Since I was young, my parents ingrained Guatemalan Pride into us. Today, I realize that I was able to grow up with a very positive image of my home country because my father, who graduated as a doctor from the University of San Carlos in Guatemala, was middle class and could have lived comfortably in Guatemala, a story very different from the majority of Immigrants to the US.
Nevertheless, Guateamala was everything and traveling there constantly helped cement a certain pride in the place from where I come. In this respect, my parents did great. My culture was positive.
I realize as I travel and continue traveling to Latin American countries like Guatemala that while the US is great and filled with opportunities. Guatemala is something else and has things to offer that the American Dream does not.
I loved Guatemala growing up, but my parents let me be who I was growing up: an American.
I think what I ended up listening to on my ipod says a lot to my experience growing up and having the ability to recognize my biculturalism. It reflects my multicultural life and experience.
You see, I really enjoy Spanish music. I love Spanish Rock, Spanish Pop and have recently acquired a taste for my mother's Argentinian Spanish oldies. Growing up, this music is what we would hear as my mother cleaned the house on Saturdays. That and Marimba - lots of Guatemalan Marimba my father listens to repeatedly.
However, my favorites also include artists like Sufjan Stevens. White hipster music perhaps, but great music that I can identify readily with as he writes about his experience growing up middle class in the Midwest. This is also who I am. Included in my mix is English rock alternative, old school jazz, classical and indie.
A video that cemented my multicultural identity was a promotional video from Univision talking about the new Latino experience, especially its buying power. It highlighted my experience and the fact that I could live on the crossroads of my two cultures.
It was alright to listen to Spanish oldies or pop, but also to like folk music. I am at liberty to do both. It doesn't matter that I also grew up American and Latino. What I like and how I grew up is a valid experience, and I continue to validate it everyday.
It took a long process, but I think I have come to a comfortable place with my identity. Being Latino is no shame to me when I'm around white culture or my white friends. I proudly say I listen to Spanish music or enjoy Latino food.
However, I am also not ashamed to say I am American and I like American things when I'm around Latinos or when I am in Latin America.
I am in a distinct position to do both. I am not 100% anything. I am a mix. I have always been a mix of several cultures and experiences.
Andres Villatoro: I'm American. I'm Guatemalan. I'm Midwestern. I'm Christian. Follow my thoughts on Twitter (@netoduk) or email andres.villatoro[at]my[dot]wheaton[dot]edu.
Grab a button for this series ~