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I remember being a kid and dreading the question, “Where are you from?” As a Filipina-American who grew up in Japan and then the Deep South, the question was complicated to answer, to say the least. But as I grew older, I began to deeply appreciate the beauty in such complexity and how that complexity exists all throughout American culture. Because whether we grew up in a multicultural home or not, we all call this multicultural country home in some capacity. Like most of our country, Lakeland is intertwined with many cultures. In this issue of The Lakelander, we’re celebrating a multitude of ways that the Hispanic/ Latino culture, in particular, is expressed in our community and how it impacts who we are as a city. From the business owners who continue to grow our city to the influenced architecture we admire, we could not say we truly love Lakeland without paying homage to a culture that regularly influences us. We tell these stories to better make sense of the world that exists around us — to better engage with the community
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TH E L A K E L A N D E R
we live in daily. And although not all these stories explicitly detail out the ancestry and history of those being highlighted, they all share how Hispanic/ Latino culture has left its mark on our city for the better. Most importantly, these stories remind us that truly hearing, understanding, and celebrating our diverse backgrounds is what binds us together. So, we’re not only asking the, “Where are you from?” question, but we’re unpacking a bit of the why behind that question and how it influences us in the subtle and not-so-subtle ways, too. And that is truly a beautiful thing.
MOST IMPORTANTLY, THESE STORIES REMIND US THAT TRULY HEARING, UNDERSTANDING, AND CELEBRATING OUR DIVERSE BACKGROUNDS IS WHAT BINDS US TOGETHER.