I am Mexican-Puerto-Rican-American. It took me a while to understand what that really meant, behind the literal meaning of my nationality. Latinx culture and, in my case specifically, Mexican and Puerto Rican culture is rich, and my journey to this realization was long.
Growing up, I went to Spanish Mass with my grandparents on Sundays, and I would dress up in a green, white and red dress with braids in my curly hair and huaraches on my feet, as they would in Puebla on the special day of la Guadalupe. I hid this from kids at school, never telling them about Sunday Mass or my nonnative grandparents—for whom I struggled to learn Spanish. I bit my tongue when the other bilingual kids speak, because I wasn’t bilingual enough. I straightened my hair to fit in with the other girls, damaging my bouncy, curly hair. I kept my home and school life separate, one who never spoke Spanish or talked about going to church and the pretty stained glass walls. I kept it in my mind, holding it in until I was back in Sunday Mass where I could appreciate it by myself, and with my grandma, knowing I had to make a new mental picture for the next week.
My grandma always talked to me about my culture, and how important it was to show who I am. I dismissed it growing up. I grew bored of this topic fast, and I regret this now so much. I wish I had heard the stories and understood the importance of the things she told me. Maybe if I had, I’d have embraced my culture sooner, and pushed my family more to take me back to Mexico more than once or twice in my childhood. I think, who would I be if I spent more time in Mexico and Puerto Rico with the rest of my family? What’s it like in the day of my grandma’s childhood? If I would have known the deep sense of peace sitting on the edge of a mountain, I would have listened to all the stories my grandma could remember.
When I read creative nonfiction, I hope to read about someone who went an a journey themselves to be who they are. I’ve learned those are the most interesting stories to me, because they show the most about someone. Learning about someone through their experiences and the things that changed them is interesting, and quite eye-opening.
Kaylee Rodriguez is a Creative Nonfiction Writer and Social Media co-leader for Levitate Magazine. She likes elephants, Kendrick Lamar, and coffee.