For most Latinos in the U.S., daily life is business as usual. Like most citizens, we spend our days working to achieve the ever-elusive American dream that for most includes success, good health, and happiness. But does the pursuit of this dream come at the cost of losing parts of who we are as Latinos?
Many U.S.-raised Latinos don’t speak Spanish, whether by choice or by circumstance. The responses to the article No speak Espanish were mixed. While some readers thought that the language didn’t define a person’s connection to their culture, many did. One reader shared her story:
“Way back in the day (the 50s) which is very similar to today's society, it was you are in America, you speak English. That happened in my family. My father made the rules in our house and one of his rules was that we were not to be taught Spanish as it may "confuse" one of us kids. So that's why at my advanced age, I'm taking Spanish at a local community college.”
She defined the loss of a connection to who she was in her parents desire to be part of American society.
Another connection that could be lost is the connection with our food, something that for many Latinos is the center of all social gatherings. With many of us relying on restaurants for our daily meals, we may be left with mutations, hybrids, and fused versions of the food we love so dearly.
But language and food are connections that we can regain. The lack of knowledge of Spanish can be remedied by taking classes, using educational computer software, and even smartphone applications for the on-the-go Latino. The connection to ‘real’ Latino food can be as simple as the passing on of family recipes, and making the time to learn how to cook them.
There are, however, potential losses that are not as easy to remedy, such as the connection to our struggle as minorities.
Puerto Rican-born, Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-ID), who was an immigration lawyer, and whose own Puerto Rico birth certificate’s authenticity could be questioned, seemed to forget his roots when he began his speech for the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) with, “I was fortunate enough to be an American citizen by birth and I have the birth certificate to prove it.” The line was a jab at President Obama with the never-ending questions from Birthers regarding the authenticity and/or whereabouts of his birth certificate essentially question his roots.
Rep. Labrador can be seen as an example of someone who may be willing to forget who he is and how that relates to the American dream.
As we continued to be questioned about who we are, even by our own, learning about our history—as in what it means to be Afro-Latino— is crucial. Though it is more difficult to maintain or search those roots as bans against ethnic studies are made into laws, it is not impossible.
It is up to us as individuals to read, research, and connect ourselves to our culture. This will ensure that our goals for a better life for ourselves, and for those who come after us, include the passing on of knowledge that will keep us connected to some of the things that make us Latinos.
Being Latino is a communication platform whose mission is to educate and connect all peoples across the global Latino spectrum. Being Latino is the largest fan page for Latinos on Facebook.