Pictured above: Graciela Lopez, her parents, and two younger siblings on her graduation day

Split Between Two Months, Split Between Cultures

By Graciela Lopez, Brand Coordinator, Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness

For many Americans, Hispanic Heritage Month is an appreciation month for all of the wonderful things that Hispanic culture is stereotypically known for: tequila, taco trucks, and mariachi bands. For those of us who identify as Hispanic and/or Latinx, the month is yet another reminder of our roots and the work that was done to get here. And for some of us, the month is bittersweet — a reminder that we have dipped our toes into two cultural ponds where we do not fully fit in.

My parents immigrated to the U.S. when they were both young adults, and together they paved the way for my two half-siblings, brother and sister, and me to have the life they could not. You’ve heard this story before — the first-gen college kid who is the first in her family to graduate with a bachelor’s degree. The Dreamers who get into Ivy League schools with full scholarships. The kid from the projects who launched his own non-profit for BIPOC communities. Hispanic Heritage Month, while it serves as an ode to a timeless story of overcoming obstacles and adversity, is also an appreciation for the culture that nurtured that success.

The Latinx community is made of all shapes, sizes, and colors. The stereotypes you might associate with us is the reality of being Latinx. My Mexican father heard it all of the time growing up; Mexicans drink tequila and eat tacos and play in the mariachi. My Nicaraguan mother? Where is that? What is that? Central America? My Argentinian grandpa — oh, Buenos Aires, Messi, che! While it’s true there are many cultures behind the curtain of being Latinx, certain cultural “knowns” stand alone: ¡Adelante! Forward. Because when you’re a Latino in America, you must always move forward.

Truthfully, it’s exhausting to move adelante all the time. The Latinx community has been targeted for simply existing, time and time again. We are dropped into buckets of identities that we do not have and called illegal in the only country we have ever known. Yet, we press on. I grew up in a small Long Island town where I was one of a handful of Latin students. We were trotted out when there were fleeting moments to show off school diversity and inclusion yet picked on for having darker skin and the same last names without being related.

It wasn’t until I began to embrace my Latin background that I found the drive to move adelante. In my Long Island school, I was still too “ethnic” to be fully accepted, and in my culture, my English accent and style still made me an outsider. Like the cultural truth I mentioned earlier, this story also is timeless. It’s a story that I live constantly, having one foot in American culture, and one foot in Latinx culture. But, like the millions out there in my position, I am still Hispanic, and I will still celebrate it. Like the countless voices who shy away from calling themselves Latinx because they never visited a Latin country or don’t speak Spanish or love signature ethnic dishes, I am still Hispanic. I am Hispanic, it is my heritage, and this is my month, too.

Graciela Lopez is a Brand Coordinator at Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness. Graciela is passionate about long-distance running, health and wellness, and blogging! When she’s not at work, Graciela can be found making fun smoothies, watching a Mets game, or keeping up with the latest fashion trends. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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