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Identity and Culture

Latino girls are trained up not raised. From the moment we can stand on a step stool we are taught to cook and clean. By the time we reach adolescence we have become like a second mother to our younger siblings and once we reach young adulthood, we can run an entire household with one arm tied behind our back to the rhythm of any good salsa beat.

Our Hispanic culture has deep traditional roots. Even the most contemporary families still cling on to those core values. One of those most deeply held is the idea of what a ‘woman’s’ job is versus that of their male counterparts. And so, from a young age girls are taught all there is to know about the art of being “a woman.” We are “trained” to do and be the best at every one of those so described ‘female’ jobs.

In our culture family is very important. It is quite common to see three, four, and sometimes even five generations of women working together in the same kitchen. When you have so many staunch examples of years of traditions, one is presented with few opportunities to consider that there may be other options to what we have been taught. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t those who manage to challenge the system and vacillate with ideas of those other possibilities. Plenty of us have daydreamed and talked about the things we would accomplish in our future that didn’t necessarily include fulfilling the roles we were taught to conform to. But in the end, there is great comfort in what you know and so for the most part, things just kind of remain status quo for a great many of us. We go on auto pilot blending in to the family roles and expectations without so much as skipping a beat.

As a Hispanic lesbian who came out much later in life, I struggled with understanding why it took me so long to figure myself out. I couldn’t grasp how I could have gone through so much of my life without really knowing who I really was. Eventually I came to realize that I was so caught up in perfecting my role as it was defined for me by generations of tradition that it simply didn’t dawn on me that I could be anything different. I simply took on the static definition I was given from the moment the doctor announced, “It’s a girl!”

Today, my traditional Hispanic values continue to run just as deep. I can still cook a mean pot of carne asada while leaving the kitchen looking like it had never been used. Like many of my Latina sisters, I do find some comfort in the traditions and in the role that I was taught to fulfill. The difference however, is that today it is not about female versus male roles but about taking care of my family as I was taught to do. Discovering your own identity in the midst of deeply held cultural traditions can be quite a challenge, but finding the right spot between the two is bliss.