My connection with my Latino heritage is very meaningful to me; however, this connection was one that I had to work to find. My grandparents did not always involve my parents in aspects of our Latino culture because it was often looked down upon in schools and in the world. With my parents being left out of many traditions, it made it harder for them to share this aspect of our identity with my sister and me. Part of this disconnect feels inevitable, as being third or fourth generation Americans means we associate more with our American history. Moreover, as Latinos in America we have not had the luxury of being able to choose to represent our heritage. The fear of being othered has led to basic yet important changes to our identity, such as the Americanization of my parents' names and them being discouraged from learning Spanish outside of school. All of these factors have created a disconnect between myself and my cultural identity, prompting me to work to reclaim my heritage.
I have found that my interest in cooking has been a great way for me to learn and connect with my heritage. I have learned many traditional Mexican dishes from different members of my family and have even taught myself new recipes to help me connect with this aspect of my identity. I have also worked to strengthen my ties to my identity by finding and engaging with the Latino community, which has not been an easy opportunity to find in school or in the world. I decided to attend the Chicano Latino Youth Leadership Project conference in Sacramento in summer 2019, where I met many Latinos from all across the state, and I am still in touch with many of them today. Finding other students with the same heritage as mine has been very empowering because it showed me the progress of our community and our potential.
One of the best ways Nueva has enabled me to reconnect with my Latino heritage was through the Spanish immersion trip to Colombia. On top of being able to practice my Spanish, I was able to experience a country with a rich history, one that is important to the rest of Latin America. Given my love for history, I found that learning the history of my ancestors was an interesting and enriching way for me to connect with identity.
This trip inspired me to join the Post-Colonial Latin American history class, which allowed me to further explore my new interest in an academic setting. One topic that was particularly interesting to me was the Mexican Revolution because it is a large reason why my family members moved to the United States. It was also particularly important to me because it is very rare that I have an opportunity to learn about history as relates to my family and heritage. Learning about the conditions that brought my family to America was especially important to me because it helped me appreciate the journey of my ancestors even more. I came to understand why my orphan great-grandfather fled the country on a train at my age, and I now better appreciate the opportunities I have today. I hope to continue to strengthen my relationship with my heritage and that Nueva works to help more students like myself find their connection.