As a Spanglish baby myself, exposing my 2 year old daughter to the measure of Spanish necessary to develop a respectable level of fluency has been daunting. As her primary caregiver, and sole Spanish speaker in our home, my own weakness in fluency is ever present. But as I continue to expose, communicate and deposit our second language into my mini Latina, an entirely new question has been posed: can she even be considered a Latina?
My Alina is a 2 year old unlike most 2 year olds you might know. With sass and keen awareness uncommon for such a pint sized person, she artfully conveys her intended message to those willing to absorb it. I take pride in cultivating my free thinker. But when she approached and seemingly conquered issues of race, identity and with one flailing swoop ousted me as “different,” my urge to restrict this impending mindset took hold.
As a product of a loving union between me, a full blooded Cubana, and my African American husband, Alina is biracial. Bicultural, if you prefer. Or, according to my 2 year old, she is simply black like Daddy. And Mommy? She’s “different.” While I was prepared to one day discuss issues of racial identity with our beautiful daughter (albeit not this young), I had never considered that the questionable identity would be my own. And, I lament, my daughter’s classification that so casually stripped our sameness caused a stir in my heart. What mother wants to be different from their children, their daughter? Maybe because I am in an interracial marriage, with biracial children, it may surprise you to know: not this one. I don’t want to be different from my kids. And it just never occurred to me that I was.
What finally did occur to me is this: maybe Alina isn’t Latina just because her mom is Latina. In its purposed core, my dedication to bilingualism has always been somewhat self-serving. As Latinos, our language unifies us throughout a spectrum of cultures, skin colors and histories. I wanted Alina to speak Spanish so that, no matter what the world said, she could take ownership of her Latina, the part of her which is me. Bilingualism is wonderful for so many reasons, but my chore of exposure is motivated by the retention of the me in her, the different in her.
After some critical thinking and the foresight granted to those who allow time to bestow it, I realized that my heart’s pressing question to be or not to be Latina is not one centered on Alina’s identity. It rested heavily on my own.
As a Spanglish baby, all grown up, I have openly wondered if I am Latina enough to be considered Latina; if my lack luster command of our language restricts the ownership of my blood that I am privy to. And while I am not quite certain the answer of that yet, what remains a feverish passion is raising a daughter who one day can. Sure, at 2 years young, Alina is nowhere near ready to define her personal identity. But as the catalyst of awareness to the many struggles of identity that exist within me, Alina’s enjoyment and yearning to speak Spanish has reminded me that “different” can be Latina too.
So, from one different Latina to the next, we wish all our hermanas on their quest of Latina-hood a very joyous journey to self awareness. Different is beautiful. Alina and I are each uniquely different Latinas. And, as I remind my beautiful little girl, in our differences there lies so much of the same.