It is difficult to celebrate a heritage that is constantly rejecting you
Author’s Note: I wrote this piece for Latinx/Hispanic heritage month in honor of my true feelings toward my latinidad and Dominicanidad. I hope that people with similar experiences can realize that they’re not alone.
You always felt like an oddball, even in a place that was meant to be called yours. It was meant to be called home. Even now, you have dreams about it. You dream about and yearn for a homeland that never seemed to want you.
It is difficult to celebrate a heritage that is constantly rejecting you. You never felt Dominican enough, not even to yourself. You always felt a need to overcompensate for some of your “undominican” behaviors. You took classes to learn how to dance bachata and salsa. Still, your latinadad was constantly in question. You don’t look Dominican. You don’t sound Dominican. Those words were often spoken to you. And they hurt.
It’s a shame because you were born on a beautiful island, an island that has the greenest mountains, the bluest sea, the whitest sand, and the tallest palm trees. If you didn’t know any better, you would call it paradise. But paradise doesn’t exist. You were born in the land of eternal primavera (eternal spring); the flowers blooming all year round always gave a sense of comfort. But you feel like it rejects you. It tells you that you don’t belong. It tells you that you are weird for reading books. It tells you that you speak too properly. It tells you you’re too white or not white enough. It tells you that your hair is too curly and not curly enough. However, you don’t accept that. You can’t accept that.
It is challenging and tiring to take pride in a heritage that is unworthy of your attention. At least that is what he said. Is he right? Is it unworthy of your attention? You don’t believe so. You love your culture. The beautiful colors, the delicious foods, the creative language; It’s all too beautiful. Maybe you are the unworthy one. He tells you not to be silly. You are smart. You are beautiful. You are educated. He says that you don’t need that. He says that you are una Americana and that it makes you superior. You don’t believe that. In your heart, you know that to be untrue.
It doesn’t matter what you feel. You still use every chance you get to celebrate your culture; you go to parties just to dance; you eat Dominican food even outside your house; you talk to people in Spanish with the biggest smile you have; you talk about the culture and history. Your Dominicanidad is inside you no matter what anyone says.
You wake up in the morning, and one of the first things you do after getting ready for the day is put on some bachata. You listen to it as if there was no tomorrow, even though some of your family members say you have bad taste. How tacky. How improper of you to listen to that crap.
You look at yourself in the mirror. You see the wild curly hair. You see the long eyelashes and brown eyes. You see light skin that is not white. You think to yourself that this is what a Dominican looks like. So you go out to the world, and you create art. You use your beloved land, your Patria, as an inspiration. You write about it. You read about it. You talk about it. Most importantly, you love it from within your heart.
Despite everything, you love being Dominicana; Dominicana soy y Siempre sere. I am Dominican, and I always will be!