A M’ija to Meet: Elena, Peruvian-Colombian-New Yorker
What I love about being Latina: Even though I am realizing more and more that it is inadequate to try to put a label on people, especially a group as diverse in class, ‘race’, ethnicity, color, geographic location, generation and ideology as “Latinos,” I do like self-identifying as a Latina and being perceived as one for different reasons. One is that the inherent ambiguity of what it is to be a Latina allows me to more easily break all preconceived stereotypes and challenge people’s notions of “Latino-ness” without compromising my identity. I am vegetarian, multi-lingual, a dancer, a singer, a law student, a sister, a daughter, a New Yorker, Peruvian, Colombian, progressive, competitive, ambitious, socially conscious, raw-food loving, rice-disliking, alcohol-free, a world traveler, curious — and all of it adds to the richness of the evolving Latina identity. In fact, I love being able to contribute to all of these identities.
What I love about being Americana: I love living here because I am close to my South American roots and get to travel there often. I also like that by virtue of my being born in this country (the US) I contribute to the evolving notion of what it is to be a “US” Americana.
My biggest challenge in growing up Latina in the US: is being pigeonholed into certain roles by virtue of being labeled “Latina,” by virtue of being a “woman” and a person who is noticeably non-white. I had to overcome feelings of internalized racism when I grew up partially because I did not see any role models, media figures, or people in power who looked like me.
My biggest support in growing up Latina in US: School and the public library. By learning about other non-Euro-centered ways of thinking I learned a lot about my own self-identification, my pre-conceived notions and prejudices. Through critical theory, I continue to learn and re-evaluate my ways of thinking. I question apparently benign-traditions and cultural norms. While this may seem destabilizing to some, for me it has resulted in much more self-acceptance and creativity and drive to increase understanding between all peoples and of myself.
Why I am beautiful: I am beautiful because I always try to think of how my actions will affect others and other sentient beings. I don’t do drugs, don’t drink, eat as healthy as possible and meditate which allows me to see the true beauty in the simplest things. I try to free myself from wastefulness and addictive behavior and this, I feel, has made me feel the most beautiful that I’ve ever felt in my life.
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