Over the course of a year, culture in my house begins with our love of music and dance and the joy from New Year’s Day and ends the year with a nice, calm family Christmas eve dinner, (and more music on New Year’s eve). I come from what some might consider a poor family on my father’s side, but my mother grew up as a middle class girl. When she moved here, she wanted to start new opportunities. She had to start her life’s journey over being kicked back to stage one. From working at a very large bank in Colombia to coming here, starting over was not easy. She was trying to do it for the better of her future, and for the son she now had.
My father, a hard-working and golden-hearted person, came from a family of poor Colombians in Suaita, Santander. They loved music, eating as a family, and paying attention to every detail of life. My father only had three toys his whole childhood! But toys were not important to him or to anyone he knew. His family was always more valuable than any object. He always stuck close to his father. He would tell me that he used to go with his father to work construction on Saturdays. I loved hearing the stories about an old woman who used to play opera on her television and how my dad would go look through the window with his friends since he didn’t have a television himself.
Another part of my Hispanic culture is that we love dancing and music too! We also love soccer. In our eyes, baseball and NFL football is a waste of time when you could be listening to music, or watching soccer! My father loves all of this stuff, and I have come to learn that this appreciation of culture passed from his father - my grandfather - to my father and seven aunts and uncles.
My mother is kind and helps you every time you enter Darien Toy Box. That is the way she was taught! Respect all people. Say “yes sir” and “no sir," “yes ma’am” and “no ma'am.” My mother grew up as a girl whose father was a business owner, but was treated like a worker at the house most of the time, instead of as a daughter. Girls weren't allowed to go out alone or even go to parties because it wasn’t correct in people’s eyes. She went to a private school, but as college neared, her father (my Papá Alvaro) wanted her to study something that she never wanted to do but was still forced to. By the sixth semester, she ran out of money, couldn’t finish college, and never went to another college. Not all members of my family finished college. Only a few made it past college, like my uncles Oscar, Luis, and Rodrigo, and my cousins Rocio and Carlos. But what do we all have in common? Our nature of who we are! We are the ones who celebrate Christmas eve and don’t care in the least about presents under a Christmas tree. We are the ones who make ‘tamales’ and eat them as a family. We are also the ones who, even though we don’t have much money, work hard to stay alive…
Now, I’m still learning about all this stuff, but what is it to me to be Hispanic? Me, a fourteen year old White-Hispanic boy, going to a private school with great opportunities. What does all of this mean? To me, Hispanic Culture is saying “Su merced” to your elders, making ‘arepas’ to go with the steak we eat at night, the tamales we make in the morning. It is the soccer we love, the Christmas eve songs, and going to church on Sundays. It’s going over to someone’s house and ending up dancing even though there is no big occasion. It’s not what’s around you that's your culture; it is what deeply makes your experience with your family your own. Your culture is what makes your life experience different from all others. I am Hispanic and being Hispanic, to me, is what molds my heart, a clay pot, into shape. Like Atlas who holds up the Earth, my Hispanic heritage holds up my personality, my being and my spirit.