Preserving Culture Anywhere and Everywhere
It surprises people to learn my company, Los Pollitos Dicen, was founded in Nashville, TN.
Same crazy surprise face when they learn the Tiki Tiki is based here too — in the Buckle of the Bible Belt South, not in some Spanglish corner of Miami, L.A. or New York.
Sometimes, I think these endeavors of mine may not have happened had I not moved far from Motherland Miami to a place where I have had to purposely seek out my cultura.
I sell more Spanish baby tee shirts in Virginia than I do in Miami and that fact alone tells me those of us who have left — or weren’t raised in — traditionally Latino cities crave the culture and purposely strive to celebrate it. To show it off, promote it, study it.
Twenty years ago, when I moved to Nashville, I was a bit of a rare bird. Today, the Latino population is humungo here, but it isn’t pronounced to me on a daily basis. I have no bodega, no viandero, no neighbor sweeping her stoop at 6:30 a.m. I live in a quiet, little neighborhood in the outskirts of town, so absolutely no real energia of what I grew up with in Miami and Hudson County, New Jersey.
And so, I have had to create a space and a career for myself that feeds my spirit. It would have been absolutely easy to let it go, to have that Latinidad part of me go bland.
But, the reality is my family instilled in me a pride that is tough to shake loose from. The noise, energy and passion of our people is so easy to miss when it isn’t around.
As I raise my daughter I often think about the ways I promote and honor being of Cuban descent: We speak Spanish, we eat picadillo (even if it is soy picadillo). I am deliberate about the music I play for her, the books we read, the stories I tell her about growing up under palm trees and with sand in my toes. My father sings her silly Cuban songs and my mom douses her withVioletas perfume.
The reality hits that even if we lived in Miami, it would be easy to forget. Even while immersed in Latin culture, our American culture pulls us in, wipes out some of the “otherness.” It’s just the way it seems to go, and has gone for generations of immigrants before us.
Are you Latina Smart?
But, what makes me feel Latina Smart is that I — and the rest of us who regularly tiki tiki here – are doing a pretty great job of holding on and passing it on.
Your comments on the Tiki Tiki and your contributed stories tell me we are grabbing the best of our culture and melding it with the best of a new culture and creating lives for ourselves that reflect the mejor de lo mejor of all our influences. Whether it is Boise, Madison or Nashville, Tennessee.
So tell me, how do you preserve culture? How do you pass on la cultura? How are you Latina Smart?
Please go “like” the new Kmart Latina Smart Facebook Fan Page to continue the tiki tiki.
Disclosure: This essay is sponsored by the Latina Smart campaign, powered by Kmart. The campaign is about the sharing and exploration of our Latin culture.