The Extraordinary Lives of Bicultural Latina Women
By Angelica Perez
Pardon my arrogance, but bicultural Latina women are indeed exceptional.
Consider one of my best friends, Maricela, born and raised in New York City, of Puerto Rican descent. A social worker by profession, she holds a top executive position in a well-respected community support center in New York City. She is smart, talented and brilliant.
She is also fiercely committed to her family’s well-being. Taking time off from her busy work schedule to take her ill mother to multiple medical appointments is not an obligation; it is a token of appreciation, love and commitment.
But quietly, it is also about fulfilling a responsibility we, as bicultural Latinas, have learned to take on: to shepherd, to shorten the cultural divide for others, and to advocate by defending the rights we know others have.
The genius to navigate dual cultural worlds, interlaced with the professional and the personal is at the core of the bicultural existence.
This extraordinary life results from the beautiful interplay, transfer and leveraging of American and Latino cultural life elements, at the juncture of the professional and personal life.
Need someone with high emotional and social intelligence, and strong work ethics and commitment, to lead your company? No problem, find yourself a bicultural Latina and she’ll get the job done with gusto.
Need a recruiter to find and engage Latinos in an academic research study? No problem, the bicultural Latina will wow potential research subjects, foster trust and engage them like family.
Need a new face and someone with the “it” factor for a new television program? Look no more, the bicultural Latina will shine and stand out like a brilliant diamond — surely to stimulate the Nielsen ratings.
At a personal level, the bicultural Latina is a deep thinker, nostalgic at times, enthralled in all the possibilities, and excellent at scanning people, things and opportunities. She learned that earlier on, in her intelligent struggle to make sense of life at home, school, at work and on the outside. Nostalgia lays deeply tucked between the cultural divide, but it is often circumvented by pioneer moments and American dreams turned reality.
The personal triumph lies in carefully choosing the best from each world and, ultimately incorporating that into who she is and who she is becoming. It is a precious unfolding of distant but interconnected moments: an old song in Spanish; the smell of cooked onions and garlic; the pressure of a midterm exam; a father’s illogical talk on love and virginity; someone’s subtle racist remark about her looks; warm summer days in her family’s country of origin; a new message on her Facebook wall; abuela’s distinct hairdo; strong laughter on Christmas eve; a college letter of acceptance; a silent prayer at night; and all the joy, pain, suffering, and excitement of living both suspended and centered in two cultural worlds.
If her life, at times, feel artsy, it is only because bicultural fluency is a creative process; and to live a bicultural existence is a truly an art.
Angélica María Pérez, PhD is a Latina psychologist and blogger. She has a private practice in New York, and a telephone-based Life Consultation and Counseling practice. She has dedicated her career to helping individuals find solutions to personal and life challenges; figure out what they want to be and do “when they grow up…” and live a more balanced, happier and empowered life. Her blog is a commentary on life, work, trends and “busyology.” She currently is writing a book titled “The Art of Being Bicultural Latina…” She is the oldest daughter of a Dominican immigrant family, and was born and raised in Washington Heights, New York.