Lately, I have been reflecting on some of the ways that I could expose my sons more to Latino culture. There are many ways that my husband and I model cultural practices at home such as the kinds of foods we cook and spices we use, the kinds of music we listen to, and the fact that we often speak to them in Spanish. However, I often wonder if all of this is enough. Sure, the boys know that they are Latino and that their parents and family are Latinos, but what exactly does that really mean to them?
My husband and I had totally different experiences than our sons growing up that better equipped us to truly understand and appreciate what being Latino means. I was raised in Spain by my grandparents until the age of 8 and spoke Spanish as my first language. My husband, who is of Puerto Rican and Cuban descent, was raised speaking Spanish at home here in the United States. He also lived and attended school in Puerto Rico for a number of years. There is really nothing that compares to being immersed in Latin culture and language by living in a native Spanish country. We learned exactly what it meant to be a Latino and the pride and culture of our people.
Our children are being raised here in the United States and are really Americanized at this point. They speak English fluently and prefer speaking English to their friends and in school. It seems like anything they value and understand is so removed from my fond memories of my childhood when it was a simpler time and we were bound together by our language and our cultural practices. These days, young people think that eating rice and beans and listening to Reggaeton makes you a Latino, but there is so much more to us as a people. It is the fabric of our culture that I am trying to impart to my children. It is that pride that has propelled us through centuries of obstacles and strife.
I often wonder if I am doing a good job of passing on these cultural lessons and these feelings of pride to my boys. Although we work very hard at home to instill these values in them, there are many things about our lifestyle that might be contradictory in the eyes of my children. We live in an affluent neighborhood that is not very culturally diverse in terms of the ratio of Latino and African-American families to the Caucasian families that live here. Actually, we are one of the few Latino families that live here and own our own home. My children also attend a Parochial school close by that is not very culturally diverse. As a matter of fact, there are only a handful of Latino children in both of my sons’ classes.
It’s almost as if the further we move away from our roots, the further we move away from the very things that we hold dear as Latinos, such as community and cultural unity. As every new generation progresses, here in the United States, we are catapulted from those rich cultural practices of our past into the American way of life. Most of us came here looking for opportunities and a better way of life and we definitely got those things. Unfortunately, however, I believe that we somehow lost something along the way and it is this very thing, this essence of being Latin that is lacking in the younger generations.
That is why I am working very hard to raise my sons to be proud of whom they are and to be proud of being Latino. I believe that you cannot know where you are going if you don’t know where it is that you came from. It is not enough to remind my boys that they are Latin and to remind them that some of the things that we do are because we are Latin, we have to show them what it means to be a Latino. Being a Latino includes a rich cultural heritage that is made up of an array of cultural practices that span across a vast network of native Spanish-speaking countries. Although all Latinos do not originate from the same country, we have an unspoken brotherhood that binds us by way of a common language and a common history. It is this pride and this brotherhood that I hope to teach my boys. My hope is that my husband and I will be able to lay a foundation that will be strong enough to influence future generations of our family. This is one of the legacies that we want to leave our children.
How do you maintain pride for your Latino heritage? If you have children, how do you help them feel proud of their Latino culture?