Although we all try our hardest to stay grounded, itís hard not to admit youíre proud to be Latina. Itís been a long and hard journey back from Spain several centuries ago, but we have survived and prospered. There are many different factors of our culture that give such a strong sense of pride and joyfulness. With no intentions of being biased against any other culture, Latinos have always had the fame of being very exotic, jovial and high in spirits. The two ingredients that I am most fond of that make me feel this strongly about being a Latino, consist of food and dance!
I remember the first time I realized what "ethnic group" I belonged to. I sat down at school to take a Standard Learning Test, and I had to choose which bubble of kinship I belonged to. That night, while helping my Mama make tortillas, she explained to me the basics of being a Hispanic. It never quite occurred to me that I would realize my culture unknowingly while taking a test. Before then I had never really thought of myself as being a "Latina," or anything else for that matter. But I slowly began to learn of all the unique characteristics that made us so flavorful and exceptionally different; and I grew fonder!
For example, if you have yet to have had the pleasure of experiencing authentic Hispanic food, which does not include Taco Bell, get yourself to the closest Latino neighborhood. Youíll most likely be able to get three delicious dishes for five bucks, so try not to get scared off by the crummy graffiti buildings. Although some pedestrians might give the occasional stares, it is just a sign of recognition and welcome. We tend to unconsciously place a large quantity of hot sauces in our food, so if your taste buds canít handle the piquancy, make sure to inform your waitress. Refrain from using a knife and fork when eating a tortilla or taco, for this would cause unwelcome stares. Besides, my Mama always said, "You taste the food better when you eat it with your fingers."
This eating barrier became problematic at my first sleep over with my new American friends. I woke up early to a familiar smell, and excitedly woke my friends up. I folded my tortilla and began placing in the beans when Suzy proclaimed, "Oh my gosh, are those beans youíre eating? For breakfast! EWW." I had never been so offended, or more surprised that not everyone indulged in black refried beans for most meals of the day. So, they ended up having some cereal, as I continued with my typical breakfast. The girls called their parents soon after, in fear of being given eggs for lunch, and pretended as though nothing happened. Thankfully we had ordered a pizza the night before, so their parents wouldnít think we deprived them of "normal" food.
The food element of Latinos can be a very touchy subject. Although it is one of the main inspirations that is focused on as a mean of entertainment, there are a few simple rules one must follow as a guest at a Latinoís home. (I was fairly unfamiliar with these regulations as a young one and therefore learned of them unexpectedly.) Christmas Eve dinner is the annual event, and we were invited to my Mamaís friendís home. As the kids prepared the fireworks, I was surprised to overhear my Mamaís friend, Geraldina, punishing my Mama for being in the kitchen. Later on that evening, Geraldina order my Mama to go sit while she served her. These are the essential traits of being a guest at a Latinoís home. As a sense of service, the host always serves the guest, and the guests are rarely allowed to help in the kitchen. It relieved me to know Geraldinaís punishments came out of affection for her guests.
Our love for feeding and being fed isnít the only staggering talent we love to parade. Perhaps derived from our vibrant dynamic roots, we have always made a social gathering remarkable, not only through our food and hospitality, but also through our exquisite music and dancing. If you donít have good rhythm and the ability to shake your hips a mile a minute, I donít recommend going to a Latino party! Nevertheless you will always be welcomed, no matter how much they might yell "GRINGO!" as you shindig like a fish out of water; they always enjoy and welcome new comers! We have always had the tradition of eating a delicious meal, and ending the next morning with dance and social drinking. (Itís not a rumor that the best wine is from Spain, and good tequila from Mexico!) Despite the wide range in social class found within the Latino community, we are capable of moving heaven and earth to have a good time.
Ever since I have been educated as
to what culture I represent, it hasnít changed anything except for
having a newfound appreciation for it. When it comes down to it, the classification
of being "Latino" doesnít really matter, for it can have a variety of meanings.
A Latina from Argentina, Venezuela or Mexico is as different from each
other as a home grown "Anglo" is different from a girl from Vancouver,
Miami or London. This identity of what culture I "represent" simply tells
of characteristics and a generality I may have, but not a definite or precise
description of what a "typical Latino" is.