When I was way too young, I fell in love with someone in Mexico, got married, and then he immigrated to the United States for me. A few years later, I got pregnant. I was so excited that my daughter would have, via her father, an actual culture to celebrate. I’ve always had this idealized perception of culture – of it being a living, breathing, almost tangible thing. And to be honest, as a white woman in the United States, I’ve never felt like I had a culture that I could embrace and celebrate. 

But when my daughter was 5? That person who was supposed to share his culture with her? He left. The amount of time that he was in her life wasn’t enough, and it definitely wasn’t enough to help her develop herself as a Latina, to develop her identity as a Mexican-American.

Since 2017, my daughter has been raised by a full-time single white mom in an environment where there is unfortunately very little exposure to or representation of Mexican culture. Honestly, raising her in the area of the Midwest where we live, there is minimal exposure to any Latino culture in our community. I’m afraid that the encouraged integration, almost inevitable assimilation to “white culture” will suffocate her Mexican ancestry.

 

I want to help her find ways to learn about her culture, immerse herself in it, and celebrate it. I want her to grow up to be a proud Mexican-American. Since her dad is out of the picture, it’s my responsibility to help her develop her Mexican-American identity. I need to make sure that she never forgets that she is a part of that community, that she has a right to be a part of it. I have to keep that “half” of her alive, I have to make sure that she is “Latina enough”.

I need her to know that Día de los Muertos is so much more than what she sees in Coco. Dunkin and Starbucks are great, sure, but there’s something special about pan dulce and café de olla. She needs to know that there’s an entire world of Mexican music out there, and that it doesn’t begin and end with Peso Pluma. And I want to make sure she understands that fútbol is so much more than fútbol, and that Frida wasn’t just an artist – she represents so much more. I need her to know that Rockaletas pican, and that there’s something about seeing that silly face on a Paleta Payaso that always makes you smile, and that Gansitos are WAY better than Twinkies. She needs to know that tacos are so much more than just “Taco Tuesday”… I mean, tacos al pastor con cebolla, cilantro, y piña? Para chuparse los dedos. How can I forget to mention sopes, and tortas, and elote. And, she needs to watch at least one entire season of a telenovela. Most importantly, I need her to know that any amount of Spanish she knows is great, but that not fluently speaking Spanish doesn’t make her any less Latina.

I know some of the cultural “life lessons” I mentioned above are very surface level; they barely even begin to convey what it means to be Mexican or Mexican-American. However, my hope is that whatever I can share with her and expose her to, will then encourage her to begin her own journey. A journey in which she discovers what it means to be Latina, what it means to be Mexican-American. And that being Latina isn’t easily defined and doesn’t mean you have to be one certain way; it means so many diverse things to so many different people.

And Sophia – if you ever happen to read this – mija, you are already Latina enough. You were born Latina enough, and always will be Latina enough.