Testomonia in response to Temporary Latina

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Ever since my parents split up when I was about two or three, my mom was my primary caretaker. In the early stages of my life, I had my Caribbean side of the family in my presence. But as I got older, I spent more time with my mom’s side of the family that is completly Irish so my Latina and Caribbean identity was slowly fading. I was put into this environment where everyone was white. I felt like I had to embrace my whiteness, my half Irish side of my identity instead of trying to find out more about being Venezuelan and Trini.  I wasn’t able to see my father and that side of the family all lost touch with each other so it was sort of like I had no one to talk to about my heritage. Now looking back on my childhood, I really never embraced being different. I never ever said I was “Latina” because I truly didn’t know anything about Venezuelan culture. I had never been there and I’ve never spoken Spanish besides taking classes in school. Now as I think about my childhood, I truly wish I had taken matters into my own hand and done at least some research about being from Trinidad & Tobago and Venezuela or even reached out to my family on my father’s side to get some answers. But it’s never too late to start. At times I felt proud to be mixed because people would see me and call me exotic and would ask me “What are you?”. In my head, thinking about this question now, I should have replied ” I’m a human” because I was being treated differently because of the way I looked. People wanted to put me in a box but they couldn’t figure out what box to put me in unless I gave them answers. As a twenty one year old, mixed race woman, I can reflect on my past experiences as an outsider and realize that my appearance definitely had a lot to do with how I was treated in the communities I was placed into. At elementary school, I was the only person in my class that had a black background and this affected my self esteem, how I talked to my peers and how I talked to my family. I had this thought in my head that no one would be friends with me if I didn’t try to be more Irish. Or that if I didn’t dress preppy enough, my grandparents would treat me differently. It’s sad to think of this now because I did give in, I was pressured into being more white. If I had embraced being Latina and Caribbean, my life would totally be different now. I think I would be a lot more educated and a lot more confident in who I am because knowing where you come from can change your perspective on life. Now that I’m older, I’m going to make a greater effort to embrace being Latina and Trini because that’s what makes me, me.

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