What Does Being Latina Mean to Me?

by Melanie Edwards on October 7, 2009 · 6 comments

in Puerto Rico

****This post was originally posted in March 2009 at Family Eden. Since that blog is no longer active, I wanted to share with you.****

I’ve been asked a difficult question.

I was asked to write about what it means to me to be a Latina.

To be honest, I’ve never really given it much thought.

I mean, do people normally go around thinking, “What does it mean to me to be a woman?” Or a man? Or do Americans think to themselves, “What does it mean to me to be American?

It’s just who you are. It’s you.

To me, it’s much the same.

Being Latina is a large part of my identity. To be specific, being Puerto Rican is really a major influence in who I am.

I was born in Puerto Rico, but we moved to Florida when I was 8 years old. Although I’ve spent many more years in Florida than I did in Puerto Rico, my parents made sure to maintain our culture in our house. I was raised pretty much the same way I would have had we stayed in Puerto Rico. (Ok, like 90% since obviously there are outside influences from school, friends, etc.) But, my parents spoke Spanish in the house (and still do), we listened to Spanish music, we ate Puerto Rican food, and I was taught values and traditions that are important to our culture.

All of those things helped to make me who I am.

However, being Latina is not just a matter of “I listen to Spanish music,” or “I eat rice and beans.” That is not what makes me Latina.

To me, it’s more about the overall culture, values, traditions, and beliefs. It’s about understanding why family is so important to us. Or understanding why my parents believed that as the youngest sibling and the only girl, I couldn’t do some of the same things my brothers did. And, how about the fact that now that I’m older and my parents are aging, I must understand why my father prefers to speak with my brother (who lives in Milwaukee) about his health issues than with me who lives 10 minutes away?

These may seem like trivial points, but if you understand the way our culture operates and the overall mentality, it’s easier to understand why these things happen the way they do.

So, what does it mean to me to be Latina?

It means a rich culture, deep values, traditions, pride, and an overall appreciation for yourself and your family.

Oh! And the great music and sabrosa comida don’t hurt! ;)

What does it mean to you?

September 15 – October 15 is Hispanic Heritage Month. How will you celebrate?

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Lisa October 7, 2009 at 10:04 am

Like you, I think culture and our values is what makes me proud to be a Latina. Loving your own culture and all that it brings is very important to be happy within yourself. I also love that during the major holidays, my family gathers together at my Abuela’s house to eat wonderful Puerto Rican food, talk to each other and laugh. We don’t see each other often, but when we do, it’s like we’ve seen them yesterday. It never gets old -The traditons, the food, conversations about the good ol’ days and much more.

Come to think of it, You made me miss my Abuela and I just saw her on Saturday :)

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2 Melanie (Modern Mami) October 8, 2009 at 7:57 am

@Lisa, So glad I made you think of your abuela! It’s good to miss them. :)

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3 Susan Payton October 7, 2009 at 12:37 pm

2 hard questions for you, Mel:
Do you feel more Latina as a woman than you did as a kid? For me, being Cajun just meant my parents ate weird stuff. Now I embrace it as my culture.

What does it mean for your daughter to be Latina?

Food for thought, eh??

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4 Melanie (Modern Mami) October 8, 2009 at 8:00 am

@Susan Payton, I don’t feel more Latina as a woman than I did as a kid. The reason is that in our culture, typically, we’re taught pride early on. The history of foods and music was taught to me as I was growing up. Do I appreciate it more as a woman? Of course. It’s hard to appreciate many things as a kid. But, even then, I knew and FELT Latina.

My daughter? She’s not just Latina. She’s bi-cultural. So for her it’s twice as good! I can’t say what it will mean to her, but I hope that through my husband and I’s actions (and through both sides of the family), she will learn about both her cultures and embrace them.

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5 The Florist October 10, 2009 at 11:48 pm

Thanks for a window into the heart of a Latina Lady. Great post.

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6 Melanie (Modern Mami) October 14, 2009 at 6:19 am

@The Florist, Glad you enjoyed, thanks!

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