I was born and raised in New Jersey; my family is Puerto Rican. I speak English perfectly; my Spanish needs work. I’ve never eaten a corn dog; I had my first bite of Mac n’ Cheese in college; I can cook up arroz y habichuelas rosadas better (and faster) than I can assemble a lasagna.
So, what am I? Can I call myself a “true American”? Do I even qualify as a “Boricua”?
In high school I used to get assigned “Puerto Rican Points” by a friend who was half Puerto Rican, half Polish. It was immediately decided that, on points alone, he was definitely more Puerto Rican than me. (Though I have the Puerto Rican body, hair, and love for all things plantain, I speak Spanish like a 7-year-old, avoid coconuts, and have yet to learn how to dance like a native.)
But as I meet more Latinas at conferences and events, I have discovered that I’m not alone - there are lots of people (Latino and otherwise) who are just as confused as I am.
It took me a while to figure it out, but I have come to the conclusion that I am a member of a special subgroup, undefinable by stereotypes: I have the opportunity to create my own identity - and so do you!
For my identity, I choose to be a Smart Latina because no one seems to know what “Smart Latina” is, yet. So I’m defining it, with every word I write, every sound I speak, and every move I make. I am educated, multilingual, and - quite frankly - a force to be reckoned with.
I’m not a typical American; my multicultural identity precludes me. I’m not the typical Puerto Rican; I don’t have enough “Points.” I’m certainly not dumb, and I have a lot to learn and share.
So now I’m on a mission to define the Smart Latina: it’s what I am, because I said so.