How do you feel when a Latin American that lived in the US says they are from your country?

"I believe there’s a lot of, not hate, and I don’t want to say resentment, but there’s like a pushback against LatinX from the Latinos. What bothers me is when people say “I am Latino cause my great grand parent is Latino too, oh let me reconnect with my roots,” yes, reconnect with your roots but don’t try to impose."

"I understand why they get mad at us because we treat them like they are not from Latin America. But I’ve noticed that it does bother me a bit and causes resentment when they say that they are from Venezuela but at the same time, even though they’ve had financial struggles with their parents, they did have certain things that we couldn’t. Like, we always say it since we were young, but we had to sacrifice several parts of our childhood to live the history of Venezuela. It annoys me that someone that didn’t have to sacrifice those things, comes and says that they are Venezuelan"

"When I came to the USA I felt uncomfortable with myself. Even though I knew that, from a rational point of view, if your parents are Latin American and maybe you spoke Spanish in your house, then yes, you have the right to claim that you are Latin American. But, when one personally lives that experience it becomes more complex. It is not about just accepting they are Latino, but when it is your culture and you feel like you have been one of the few people fortunate enough, from a country where most people cannot come to the US and pay for education, and then someone else that has had those opportunities and a different life in the US also wants to claim all your culture and history, it becomes uncomfortable at a certain point. It is difficult to get that thought out of your mind."

"I think that many times we, the Latinos, feel like we have to protect our culture in a way. And sometimes, it is bad and dumb, but at the same time we mentally create that gap as in “I am one degree more Latin American than you because I grew up there and had to go through more things when instead you grew up here and, at the end of the day, lived a different life than the majority of Latinos. There is that difference. They have a different perspective that allows them to connect with those with similar experience. But, I do think there is a gap, and it is an important gap. That is why there’s this division. Like yes, I have the same rights as you, but it is not the same." 

"They lived very different lives. It is different being a minority in the US and living in behalf of that minority because you are subject to those stereotypes, as people expect you to act in a certain way, to look a certain way, you are living the politics of a country within your identity not even within yourself. At the same time, in our countries it is also different. I am from Nicaragua and lived the crisis in Nicaragua is different than saying I am from Nicaragua but lived all my life in North Carolina, you didn’t live the same, but yes, you do have the same identity and you are entitled to claim it. It is not because you didn’t live in Nicaragua that I will say you are not Nicaraguan but it is different."

 

How are your experiences different from those that grew up in the USA?

"The way of greeting each other, what they listen to, what they eat, even the times to eat, the topic of conversation. LatinX are more similar to Americans, in a sense. At the same time there are a lot of differences. But, after seeing the differences between your friends or the people you surround yourself in the city were you live in, and then coming to the US and you encounter yourself with the cultural shock from the Americans."

"In our countries, there are politics that change your day to day. As in, if you are even going to get to eat or not. Instead in the US regardless if Hilary or Trump had won, if you were going to buy a car you will do it anyways, your day to day will go the same, to the point that you could even forget who the president is. In the US politics are more diluted."

"When something happens in Chile, I feel like something happens to me. It is really weird."

"I believe that the reasoning and experiences from both sides are different. From our side, meaning the more international, from one side we have the experience that we left our country and moved to another one, a new culture, new social dynamics, being far from your family, I think that is one thing. And then, there is the experience of having lived in that Latin American country, understanding what is the day to day like, how people relate to each other, the problems, the positive things. And, in the side of LatinX, they feel that cultural side as having a mother that cooks all the food from that country, that speaks to you in Spanish, that maybe she doesn’t even know English, your parents suffered living that country and came to the US for better opportunities but they always speak on how it was like in their hometown and they tell you that you are from there. And, in the other side, you are in an American community where you are considered an immigrant, and in many case, you come from a lower social class, and you are not completely accepted by the mainstream culture. It is a very complicated position. You are not completely American, at least you don’t feel like it, but at the same time, according to the definition of the internationals, they don’t consider you fully Latino because you didn’t grow up there. The difficulty is obvious. I mean at least we, the internationals, have a feeling of belongingness very secure. But,  LatinX aren’t in one side or the other, it is like a middle point."

"I think that their biggest plight is to be accepted as American and to stop having so many issues with immigration, just like all the Nicaraguans are told in Costa Rica, I think that that experience allows me to emphasize more with LatinX. But, at the same time, it is quite different, we simple have completely different experiences."

 

How are LatinX experiences different to International Latin Americans?

"You can be punished, in the USA, a lot for things that in Venezuela, whenever they are told these stories, they don’t see them as such a big deal. My family in Venezuela has to live with things like kidnappings, accidents, murders all the time, and because they have that life that isn’t the normal but having it so normalized makes them think that in the US everything is perfect and like a different world. But, in reality there are several things that could improve in Miami but in Venezuela they are dealing with worse issues. It is interesting to see the differences of the problems in both countries."

"The LatinX would speak, I love them and I think they are amazing people, but when they speak about the difficulty their parents went through when they had to cross the border with Mexico or came from Cuba, etc, I can’t participate. I come from a very privilege position, I mean I do have difficulties such as I have to leave after two years and that is difficult, but it is not like I am here without papers, and that. I will never understand their reality, and they probably won’t understand mine either."

"It is complicated to understand the difference of being Latino and growing up here and being Latino and growing up in Latin America. But, I think there are several things that we have in common. I’ve always gotten along with Latinos that grew up in Latin America and I love being Latino but it is truly different having grown up in the USA and having both sides. At the end of the day, I am not American nor Latino so I am like in the middle of both worlds."

 

How's the American cultural shock?

"First of all, I think it is really weird how people greet each other, they say high but don’t even give their hand or a kiss. Also, some ideas of going out, conversations, times to eat, what they eat, are very different. Everything here is very accelerated, like always thinking about the future."

"Americans tend to think the same. Instead, the internationals see the world differently, they have different perspectives."

"I think that one of the biggest problems of American culture is that most people aren’t cultured and they aren't interested in learning, I think that is the saddest thing."

"I don’t think Americans understand my reality and I don’t understand theirs, in a way that it stops being cute or exotic to have a different reality that Americans."

 

"It comes in two ways. We separate from them, mostly because of the language and culture. Regardless of how much they think they are Latinos, one that grew up and only feels comfortable mainly speaking Spanish, and isn't used to socializing in English, listens to Latin American music, tends to make one distance from them. But, I think that between them, they believe, since internationals, in the majority, come from a higher economic background, and the LatinX on the contrary and have been forced out of the country, so they think the division is based on money, therefore they, on their own, distance themselves from us as a group. Individually they don’t, I’ve never felt that division individually."

Why do you think this gap occurs?

"Like, I don’t want to assume, but I feel like maybe Latin Americans that are born in America have been used to just being a minority, their culture as a minority, and they are used to interacting with other cultures more and like it is normal. And, maybe international students want to find a connection and common ground with other people."

"We have to recognize that we are different people from just the fact of being born in different places, our experiences are different. But always with respect and like alliance, like I understand your struggles, I can’t relate but I empathize because their family probably had to leave Latin America at some point, and that is really hard. I can’t imagine how it most feel to leave when Latin America is your house."

"I didn’t truly understand the division. I think I felt it, and it obviously separated me, I felt I was part of another category. But, I didn’t truly understand why there was a negative connotation. It looks like the LatinX, like any person, has different types of people, with some I get along really well and with others I don’t have any relationship or they bother me a bit more. But, as a group we have some similarities but different circumstances that we lived."

"LatinX are more comfortable with American people and us the other way around, not necessarily because we are Latinos we have to connect but it is more about the person they are. And yes, the culture shouldn’t define any relationship and I am certain that it doesn’t define any of mine."

"It is a bit hard to assimilate to certain experiences they’ve had."

"And yes, naturally if they speak Spanish I get a long better as I don’t have that language barrier."

"This gap is like an unspoken bias o rule. The Latinos that I identify with here and feel like family are those that grew up and were raised in Latin American countries, I couldn’t tell you that I feel like all the LatinX at Duke University are my family, impossible. This topic is something that within the Latinos we never really, besides jokes, discuss very openly."

 

How do you identify yourself and how do you feel about it?

"I would say Uruguayan, latino definitely not. I mean I had to identify as a Latino in a certain way but it is not the one that I feel the most. The term “Latino” I haven’t fully processed."

"To start, “Latino” is an American term that has been given to us by been from different cultures and values, from there I do not feel Latino, like I would have never thought of saying latino before I came to Duke."

If you ask me where I am from I would say I am Peruvian.

"I think I would say Latino, but I would also say my different perspectives. I guess I would have to say Latino, even though I am not sure if I like that label, I think that is how people in the US would see me. They want to put people in a box, like have them in a bucket, and when there are labels in makes all conversations easier, without them it would be like “how are we going to approach this or deal with this group of people?”"

"I don’t know. Saying I am Peruvian is such a big part of me that I can’t just not label myself like that but it elicits a reaction that is not always positive for me. I won’t stop saying it, because not, it is a big part of me. It is like saying “I have 22 and I am Peruvian” but at the same time that label, in a group of Americans, makes me not feel fully part of it, most of the time, except when I am close friends with them. Like they don’t ask someone from Texas “how is it in Texas?” But they do ask me “and how is it in Peru?” When their realities can be as different in California as in New York as in between New York and Lima."

"Also, I understood that in the eyes of Americans we are all Latino but we are so different from one another. Yes, we have our region and our social and political trauma, since Latin America has gone through so much more than any other region, but at the same time we are completely different countries."

 

"I think that since we are humans we have that necessity of belongingness. Like nobody doesn’t want to have a label but at the same time we complain. I am really interested in how we are so desperate to be define as something but to not be defined as something else. At the end of they day it all surges from an animal instinct."

In conclusion...

"I have learned a lot and I loved learning from other cultures and, in my opinion, I’ve grown a lot with them (International latinos) because I’ve learned so much from them. I’ve also learned about the things I don’t like from other cultures but also how to respect everyone."

"I don’t think that a gap/division of both groups is bad. As in, how Paulina, Diego, Fran and me, have very similar experiences living here, coming from another country, seeing how to interact with Americans. The same way LatinX have their own experiences, living here being Latino, knowing how people interact, having gone through problems that we probably didn’t experience. But, it is not bad that we are divided."

 

© 2023 by Paulina Asturias. 

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