My Experience Of Being Hispanic In The USA

I am Hispanic so that must mean I was born in Mexico, and illegally immigrated to the U.S.. I am Hispanic so that must mean that when there is an increase in poverty, teen birth rates, and crime, I have something to do with it, right? Wrong. My curly brown hair and caramel colored skin has always prompted people to ask me the same question,“what are you?” And time and time again, I give the same answer: “my mom is from Panama and my dad is from the U.S..” Except when I tell them my mom is from Panama, sometimes they don’t even recognize the name.

I struggled with insecurity, feeling judged when I told people my answer to this question. When my mom was eleven, my Grandparents left everything in Panama to offer a better education and future for my mom and her 2 siblings. They didn’t know any english. Flashforward 40 years and although we live on different sides of North Carolina, we still manage to see each other every weekend. Going out with my stereotypical loud and big family was a pain for me. Everywhere we went I felt like the label of being Hispanic followed us, that we were the oddballs out. Eventually I felt so alienated I struggled to associate myself with the people who I loved the most.

Above all, I couldn’t embrace who I was or where I came from. I was having an identity crisis. I found myself hesitating on which box to check when websites or forums asked for ethnicities. There wasn’t a check all that apply, so was I more American or Hispanic? It was like asking myself “what half of yourself do you like better?” The first time I visited Panama was during the summer of 2014, I was 12 and went with my grandma, my aunt and my cousin. The first couple of days we did what every tourist would do. We visited the Panama Canal, toured some Islands, and went on a Safari. On the second to last day of our trip, we stayed at our family house where several of my relatives lived. As we ate dinner and caught up with each other, I looked around and saw how interconnected everyone was.

The love was so evident in the food they cooked, the smiles on their faces or even the way they looked at each other. They held their heads high and refused to be subjected to the stereotype that they are supposed to carry – that we are supposed to carry. I had a revelation. I didn’t need anyone else’s acceptance. Worrying about my own image, I consumed myself with wanting to fit in. I felt like my background of being hispanic disrupted this feeling of being apart of something big and great in the world. I see my family and look at how hard they have worked in life knowing where they have come from, staying connected with their roots and culture.

Being hispanic doesn’t define them, it doesn’t define me. Still, we all go back to the question of “what are you?” What many people fail to realize is how important the word you is in that question, and I failed to realize that. All of us have different backgrounds that propel us to where we are going in life. You cannot forget the importance of where you come from because it leads to where you are going. Being hispanic is a part of who I am, and I will never fail to remember that. I hold my head high knowing that when people ask me that question I am confident in my answer because it is a part of who I am, of who I am going to be.

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My Experience Of Being Hispanic In The USA. (2023, Jan 26). Retrieved from