Una gringa adolescente en Nueva York
A TEENAGE GRINGA IN NEW YORK
éjame quieta! You’re so old fashioned. ¡Tú no me entiendes! These were the words I yelled to my mother once we moved to the United States. Although born in Puerto Rico, I had spent most of my life in the US. I wanted the same freedoms that many of my US friends were given by their parents. “No mi’jita” my mother would said, “that is not how we do things en esta casa.”And that was the heart of the matter. It was a battle between cultures. In my mother’s eyes, children in the US were given too many liberties. They did not respect their parents. They did not value familia, something that was, and still is, one of the biggest priorities in my mother’s life. I could not understand her. I felt controlled.
Photographs: Left: ©istock.com/quavondo. Right: ©istock.com/AtomicSparkle
I didn’t fit in either world. In Puerto Rico, I was a “Gringa”, who did not speak Spanish well. New York wasn’t much better. I had an accent that became more pronounced when I was upset. I was a child of two worlds, struggling to fit in both, while fitting in none.
Now as an adult, I understand the issues that were at play. I know that my mother was holding onto our costumbres, our language, food, music, so that I would not forget who I was. I was a Latina and she wanted me to be proud of that fact. However, as a teen, I did not want to appear different. I wanted to fit in, to be accepted, to be like other American children. Now, as a mother of a tween and teen, I see the problems my mother faced. It’s hard enough trying to communicate to a hormone filled tween/teen when you both embrace your culture, but even harder when cultural differences are brought into the mix. So when I hear those words I yelled at my mother so long ago coming from my children’s mouths, I chuckle and walk away. Just as I was, they are children of two worlds. The difference between us is that they have one foot planted firmly in both worlds. How do I know? The words were in Spanish and English and that is música to my ears.
february • febrero 2012 | PLAZA FAMILIA 25
Plaza Familia 2012