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Duality of Being Latino in the US: Open Thread

Submitted by on October 20, 2009 – 9:05 am11 Comments

lin-manuel mirandaWhen the PBS special Latino Music USA ended last night, I wanted to stand in my Tennessee family room and clap. It was a wonderful lesson in history, and a thrilling reminder of how delicious and diverse our culture is. So, gracias, PBS. If you missed it, the show is available online and on DVD.

While I ate up every minute, the last few that featured Lin-Manuel Miranda, a Puerto Rican New Yorker and the creator of the Tony-winning Broadway hit In the Heights, was my most, most favorite. He hit on a topic that I love going on about: The duality of first-generation Latinos.

He said that for us, “home” is a loaded word. Where do I belong? Do I belong here, or am I supposed to go back home? What do we take with us? What do we pass on to our children, he asked.

The play, which I did not see, addresses those questions — and they are the same ones we often talk about here on the Tiki Tiki, the questions I ask myself as I raise an American child with Cuban roots.

You can see Lin-Manuel’s interview on the PBS site, here.

Personally, it feels like information comes into my brain, runs itself through two filters before it comes out my mouth as thought. One foot in one culture, one foot in another. But it doesn’t mean I pick one over the other. It doesn’t mean I consciously run things through my American filter and then my Latin filter. They work in unison. One cannot operate without the other. I am a sancocho. And again, personally, even when I have tried to tamp down the Latin-ness, to meld a little more, our culture, or some stranger, or some somebody, tells me that well, I’m not really totally American.

So, some questions for you, Tiki Tiki:

Did you watch the documentary?
Do you think about this duality in your daily life?
Is your Latin heritage a conscious, in-your-face-fact, or do you not really think about it?
What does “home” mean to you?
Are you too a sanchocho?

Share, por favor!


  • [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by pocketcultures, Tiki Tiki Blog. Tiki Tiki Blog said: Open Thread on the Tiki Tiki: Duality of American Latino identity http://bit.ly/4ozXra [...]

  • Eric says:

    Wow this is a great post. When someone asks who I am I think I found the perfect answer:

    I am a 25-year-old Jersey born Colombiano living in Philadelphia. That honestly answers everything. And you’re right, we can’t think American first and then Latino or vice versa, it’s a mix of everything.

  • There were moments during Latin Music USA that made me a little misty eyed. (That’s tough for a macho Cuban male to admit.) Yes, like you Carrie, I was filled with pride and joy watching the show.

    It was a profound experience on a number of levels. I was once again reminded of the diversity of Latinos. We are no more alike than people with Anglo names, in culture, in character or even in color. Yet there is a common thread in that tapestry that’s vibrant and bright. Latin Music USA found that thread and created a show that educated as it entertained.

    This show was PBS at its best.

  • NYCityMama says:

    I’m so, so sad I missed it!!! OMG. I am going to have to look for it now.
    Duality in my life…ah yes, very much so. I am too outspoken, too “malgriada” for Dominican social standards…Actually had a man tell my husband to “control you your woman, she is a malcriada”. I knew living in the Dominican Rep that I didn’t fit in, I didn’t want to. “The American influences”, the feminists ideologies, though I am not sure I really am much of a feminist at all, the strong sense of independence, pride, and freedom in so many aspects of my self and life, didn’t and still don’t appeal to the Dominican culture…thus, they all excused it all as my being “a gringa”…and then of course, in the USA..I am not. Here is the US is when I am most Latina…most Dominican…but I know, in my mind and in my heart that I am neither here nor there…sorta of this unique bread of an individual shaped by the mix and influences of two cultures, taking the pieces, beliefs, ideas, and theories from both that most appealed to me. I am Sancocho, big time. LOL!

    Not sure if others see me as an “in your face Latina”…not sure if the things that conflicts with what they know are excused in their minds as just “because I am Latina”…is my out spokeness because I am Latina? Is my fearlessness and ambitious nature because I am Americana? Who knows…I like to think that it is because of both.

  • Wow! Thank you, Carrie, for opening up this discussion. It’s fascinating to hear others share the very same feelings I have had all my life as a gringa-there/latina-here. I am thrilled to have found a community that transcends all borders and distance and where I feel right at home.

    Thank you for what you do at Tiki Tiki-it truly is priceless!

    Therapy to figure out, for once and for all, that you are gringa AND latina: $5,200.00
    Kitchen remodel after exploding the damn pitadora: $10,000.00
    Round-trip fare to S.America to explore your roots: $850.00

    Connecting and reflecting in your pjs at TikiTiki Blog: Priceless!!

    Un big beso to todos who are “un poquito d’aqui/un poquito d’alla”

  • Ana Lilian says:

    I always have the hardest time answering the question: “Where are you from?” I was born in Texas to Salvadorean parents but “grew up” in El Salvador. I put it in quotations because I really only lived there until I turned 18. then I moved back to Texas for college. I’ve basically been back in forth my whole life. School here, summers there. Five years here, another five years there. Work here, work there.
    So, where AM I from?
    I always consider myself Salvadorean, even though I don’t have a single paper testifying to the fact. But that’s the place where my childhood memories were created. But when I’m there it’s obvious I don’t completely belong. Soy muy gringa.
    The truth is I like not having a straight answer and being a chameleon of sorts that can adapt and feel at home here and there.

    Carrie…el Tiki Tiki is all grown up now and has found its voice! We applaud it…Bravo! ;)

  • Evenshine says:

    I think it’s easier for people to have clear-cut labels, to be able to categorize others like shoes or DVDs. The Latino experience (contrary to popular, non-latino belief) is a myriad of colors, definitions, influences, and stories, which is what makes it so vibrant and modern, while at the same time retaining such deep, traditional roots.
    Great conversation, and nicely done, Carrie!

  • [...] about the duality in Latino culture among first- and second-generation Hispanics over on the Tiki Tiki Blog today. It’s an interesting conversation. Come over and give your two cents.  Plus, Marta posted a [...]

  • Carrie says:

    Ah, you guys. I love talking to you so much. I want to invite you all over to my casita in the woods to talk, talk, talk.

    Do you know Jhumpa Lahiri? Interpreter of Maladies, Unaccustomed Earth, The Namesake. Pulitzer Prize. I just read her three books, which were handed to me by a South African friend who, upon hearing about the Tiki Tiki, said I would connect with Lahiri, who writes about the first-generation Indian-American experience. I have eaten up her work because it really resonates. The push and pull of culture, of otherness, the desire to find our spot in the world and deciding how much we keep and reject from the old world.

    And, Nilki, my therapy bill is bigger than yours!

    Thanks for sharing your stories with me, with us all.

  • Roxana says:

    Funny I’ve never felt anything but Peruvian, yet I’ve spent most of my 36 years alive, in the United States. Even though I was born in Peru, I moved to the U.S. when I was 14 and I never left. I go back home to Peru at least once a year because even though my immediate family doesn’t live there anymore, my grandma, uncles, aunts, cousins and friends still do.

    I’ve never felt like I don’t belong over there or over here – maybe I’m just being delusional. I must say, though, that I don’t feel “American” although the definition of that word is debatable also, no?

    I absolutely LOVE Lahiri. I devoured Interpreter of Maladies and did the same with The Namesake. The other one sits in my library waiting to be read – maybe the time has come!

    Thanks for the great post, Carrie!

  • I watched, and it did a better job of explaining the history and future of Latino-Americans than CNN’s Latino in America.

    Home to me is wherever my family may be that means small town Georgia where my mom and dad are, big city Atlanta where my husband is, Bogota – where my grandma and aunts and uncles are, etc. Home is in the heart and where you carry it.

    I feel like a mix of Gringo, Latino, and even African-American culture, because that’s how I grew up and I love it!

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