My name is Elizabeth, and I was born in the United States, specifically in New York City. My father was a Chilean immigrant, and my mother a Hispanic American born in the U.S. as well. While being part of two cultures is in many ways rewarding, especially when you consider the benefits of being raised with dual languages, there are also several unique hurdles that are faced only by Hispanic Americans. So if you are reading this, and you know someone who is a Hispanic born in the United States, here is a list of 5 things they probably want you to know about them:
1) We are just as American as you are.
Many times people look at us and ask us where we are from. When we respond we are from a certain state, the response is typically: "No, really...where are you from...originally?" What Hispanic Americans want you to understand, is that this is our country too. Even though our parents may come from other countries, this is the place of our birth. We are not here illegally or undocumented. We went to the same schools, we learned everything the white, black and Asian kids learned. We know the culture. We listen to the same music, watch the same television shows, and enjoy the same movies. Although we may visit the countries our parents came from, it will never be as familiar to us as this one. We pledge our allegiance to the same flag. We are American too.
2) We must speak Spanish, there is no choice.
There is no way around this one. If you are Hispanic, and your parents are Hispanic, you need to speak Spanish, period. Being born in the United States does not give us a free pass on this one. This is because of the shaming that often occurs within families. Sadly, a Hispanic that does not speak Spanish will often be singled out and made to feel less of him or herself. Most households believe that not speaking the language makes you not proud of your heritage. Even worse, they believe that a Hispanic who refuses to speak the Spanish language is considered to be "Americanized" in the sense that they have lost an important part of who they are by opting to only speak English. This is what we have to deal with. Now here is where it gets tricky. We want to be recognized as Americans yet there is nothing more shameful to our own family members than being an "Americanized" Hispanic, ironic isn't it?
3) Other Hispanics think we are arrogant.
There are several Hispanics in the United States that were born in other countries, and have come to the United States for various reasons. Often times, they consider the Hispanics born in this country to be rather arrogant and cocky. They think we consider ourselves better than the rest, simply because we were born on the "other side" of the river, so to speak. However, just because we speak English does not mean we look at ourselves as high and mighty. Sadly, this is just a misconception.
4) We have a hard time fitting in.
The Americans don't find us American enough, and the Hispanics don't find us Hispanic enough. This is a struggle we face constantly. We have the best of both worlds, yet we can't find a 100% mesh with either side, and honestly I don't think there will ever be one. Hispanics born in other countries will look at you funny if you mispronounce a word in Spanish, or even worse, don't know the definition. Try explaining to them that you were born here, and that's a whole other story. We never hear the end of it.
5) We love our dual heritage.
We love everything about being Hispanic. We love our food, our music, our diversity. We watch Spanish Soap Operas with our grandmothers, and dance to music while we clean our kitchens, or cook our dinners. This is who we are. We cannot change it. We will not change it. We are proud of who we are and where we come from. Yet we still love America, its freedom and everything it stands for. If that is not what makes up this amazing melting pot, then I don't know what is!