I can summarize my life in just three words: I am Hispanic. That is what the majority of people I know choose to believe. They believe that because I am from Spanish decent that my life revolves around it. They believe that prejudices surround me and that I must therefore be entitled to special recognition. The problem is that I am Hispanic not because I choose to be but because society has chosen to label me so.
I have spent my entire life on American soil. I know nothing of my so-called "native land,"ÃÂ because I was not born there, because I do not wish to go there, and because the only knowledge I possess of its existence came from the various encyclopedias that line my living room wall. I know nothing of it because I spent my childhood with my American friends in an American school on an American Army Base.
It was when I was eight that my father resigned from the army and made the ultimate decision to move my family to an almost all-Hispanic community. This community was my first real connection with my heritage. I now know that I am truly Hispanic because I look a lot like the other people who live here in Miami. I now know I am Hispanic because the people I encounter automatically assume that I speak a language even though it is foreign to me. I know I am Hispanic because I eat rice and beans every night and traditional American dishes only on special occasions.
I know am Hispanic but I do not speak Spanish and consider my native tongue to be English. I cannot correctly pronounce the typical Spanish dishes nor spell the names of my distant Spanish relatives. I am Hispanic but living in a Spanish community still leaves me with the uncertainty of knowing whether I will be able to communicate with my own neighbor.
For the rest of my life, I will be Hispanic which leaves me with two choices: take the very few people who speak English and move as far away from civilized life as I can or learn Spanish and get to know the people who surround me. Even though it seems difficult at best, I choose the latter.