by Lisa Quinoñes-Fontanez
I’ve always felt like I’ve never had a place. Dancing between two worlds in cultural limbo. Growing up in a diverse Latino neighborhood and not speaking Spanish, I heard it all: valley girl, gringa, stupida. Accused of not being proud of my heritage and interrogated on why my mother never taught me Spanish; my mother silently accused of parental neglect. Why did I never learn to speak Spanish? Well, that’s for a whole other post.
Whenever friends or family slip into Spanish, I try to listen for words I understand and connect the pieces of conversations, like a puzzle. Through the years, I’ve educated myself on Puerto Rican history and read Latino authors trying to prove my cultural worth. I love my culture. I love everything about Puerto Rico: its people, history, resilience, music, and food. I’ve realized pride can never replace language. Because when I tell people I’m Puerto Rican but don’t speak Spanish, their response is, “You’re not really Puerto Rican.”
Now as a writer, I’m trying to establish my identity. And once again, I’m dancing between two worlds. In the grand blogosphere, I find myself questioning: am I a Latina Blogger or Blogera Imposter? Is there a place for a Latina writer who’s not a Latina writer? My name will suggest ethnicity. But name alone is never enough. And cultural identity needs to be proven.
In receiving feedback on an autobiographical essay I wrote about my initial reaction to my son’s autism diagnosis, my professor stated that she would have liked to see more of an ethnic socioeconomic perspective. Why isn’t my own perspective enough?
And I can’t help but wonder: what will make my writing ethnic? More importantly, if I can’t make my writing more ethnic, where does that leave me? In Hollywood, you could be a Latino actor/actress and not play a Latino. Why are writers typecast and forced to choose?
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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.