Why I don't Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month


I recently learned, thanks to social media, that September 15 - October 15 is Hispanic Heritage Month. I didn’t know because I was never taught. My parents never told me, and I’m pretty sure they didn’t know either. And, well it was never mentioned in school until I got to college.

I’m a first generation American. Both of my parents migrated to the US, from Mexico for a better life or as many of you like to call it the “American Dream.” My parents met here in San Diego, and well the rest is history.

Growing up I was always torn between two cultures. My parents taught me how to speak Spanish and they put me into a bilingual program at my elementary school. I remember reciting the alphabet in both Spanish and English, and thankfully all of my teachers spoke Spanish. As I got older, my classes became more “English” focused and by middle school that’s all it was. English.

I got in trouble often for speaking Spanish in class. I remember every occasion perfectly. “There’s not Spanish in this class.” And since then I spoke less and less Spanish at school.

It was a delicate balance. Switching from language and culture at home and at school. I'm sure that many can relate. With my family, I was encouraged to speak Spanish, but because my brothers and sisters all spoke English, that was my go-to language. My Mexican relatives often gave me a hard time for speaking "broken" Spanish. And well, I never fully finished learning the language, I just spoke English more often that I started to forget Spanish.

Thankfully, I lived in one of the most diverse communities in San Diego so trying to fit in was never an issue for me, until I got to college.

"I paint my own reality. The only thing I know is that I paint because I need to, and I paint whatever passes through my head without any other consideration." - Frida Kahlo

Growing up, I couldn’t understand why my parents couldn’t speak English. And well they can, they do speak English. It’s just not perfect and they prefer to have me or one of my siblings speak for them and act as their “translator.” Going out, I’d often have to order for my parents. I’d read their mail for them, translate at the parent-teacher conference and the list goes on. As a child, it was a big responsibility and I didn’t want it. Looking back, I feel bad. I never liked translating for my parents, and at times I’d even get mad at them and constantly question them.

Now that I’m older, I have a better grasp of both cultures. I even decided to minor in Spanish so I could re-learn the language and learn more about Mexican history. I don’t question my parents for choosing to speak Spanish, nor do I give two fucks when a relative points out my “broken” (it’s not even bad) Spanish. I am who I am, and I am proud. Not speaking perfect Spanish doesn’t make me less of who I am. It just makes me “me.”

As a Latina, I have to choose which aspects of my culture I want to retain. At Thanksgiving, we don’t make turkey tamales. We make the traditional thanksgiving dinner. We also don’t make tamales for Christmas. It’s a choice my family and I have made. How much of our culture do we preserve and pass down? Do we assimilate to American life, or live the traditional route?

No answer is right or wrong. It’s about preference. Because as we grow so does our culture. Old traditions become just that, old and we build new ones. Ones that we’re comfortable with.

To this day, I don’t know what Hispanic Heritage Month means to me. I don’t celebrate it.

I’m not Hispanic. I’m Latina. I’m not too white or too Mexican for you. I am simply, Mexican-American. A girl who is trying to balance both Mexican and American culture. I love who I am. I love my roots and I love that I am more aware of my culture. I love being a Latina woman in my own way.

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