On Being Latina…And Why I Am Orgullosa!

A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people – Mahatma Gandhi

I remember the moment I first realized I was different.  I was in elementary school and a little girl asked me about my hair and the color of my skin. As much as I tried to deny my culture and convince her that I was exactly like her, she knew I wasn’t…even at the young age of 7.  I was raised in private schools from the time I went to Kindergarten, and as a young Latina girl, that often meant I was the minority.  From that moment all through high school, I tried to look, act, and talk like my peers. I grew up in a home where for the most part, our culture was stifled. We spoke English and rarely ate ethnic meals. Family gatherings were sparse since we are sprinkled across the country. Wardrobe from Nordstrom, straight hair (achieved with a flat iron, of course), eventual makeup…all designed to fit in.  As much as I tried, I could not deny my culture…my heritage.  I took three years of high school Spanish, and I’ll never forget that teacher who told me how important my language and culture are…how embracing them would be life-changing.

In retrospect, I don’t remember being teased or ridiculed for the color of my skin, rather there was this constant personal awareness of being different. As long as that period of time felt in my life, one day we graduated, and for some reason, I became less focused on the color of my skin and the thickness of my hair.

Even as a young adult, my perspective was broadening.  I graduated nursing school and landed a job at my dream hospital in the heart of Los Angeles.  Oh how I love this city that embraces diversity and celebrates cultures.  Studying nursing matured me in ways I could never imagine.  I learned how to be compassionate and open-minded…how to approach situations from a holistic perspective  rather than taking them at face value.  It is through nursing that I fully realized how integral a person’s culture is to all aspects of life, including physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.

Today, I am so many things…wife, mother, daughter, friend, woman…at the heart of who I am is my culture.  I am Orgullosa!  I am proud to be a Puerto Rican woman living in Southern California.  And I’m thankful to be surrounded by a community of women who share that same pride in their culture and heritage.

It is through this space that I met two of my closest friends…Liz and Aracely.  These women are smart, creative, funny, and compassionate.  They also happen to be Latina.

Having been in this space for five years, I’ve watched how the Latina community has grown.  Last week sixty five of the most influential Latina bloggers in this space were invited to Washington DC for a retreat which included a groundbreaking visit to the White House for a briefing to talk about the most pressing and pertinent issues in the Hispanic community.

As this space grows, there is a need for Latina women to connect…to share experiences, ask questions, seek support.  Orgullosa is a celebration of this community.   It is a place for Latina women to share their opinions and experiences…to connect with other women.  The site is an invaluable resource, focused on this community and offers information and tips focused on beauty, culture, career, family, community, and the home.

Orgullosa simply means pride.  I love the premise of the site:

Orgullosa is more than a movement — it is an authentic reflection of the Latina woman’s steadfast spirit.

At the heart of every Latina woman is their culture…their heritage…those things that define them including language, food, and celebrations.  If you are a Latina woman, I’d love to connect with you on the site. You can sign up for this growing community here (it’s free!).

I received compensation for participating in a SocialMoms and Orgullosa blogging program. The opinions and ideas expressed here are my own.


8 Responses to “On Being Latina…And Why I Am Orgullosa!”

  1. Nikki — May 26, 2012 at 1:40 pm

    I’m glad that you shared your story, it’s always hard when you are looked as being diffrent then others, and now I know they really focus on teaching kids about bullying and stuff, but not to long ago it wasn’t something the schools really stressed!!!
    I’m glad your now proud of who you are 🙂

  2. CinnyBBS — May 26, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    Thanks for sharing your story. That sounds like a great community for Latinas!
    Whirlwind of Surprises

  3. Emily — May 26, 2012 at 7:13 pm

    You are beautiful Caryn! Great post, and I love hearing about the Latina pride of Orgullosa. Such a fun word!

  4. Julie — May 26, 2012 at 7:38 pm

    Thank you for sharing! Your inspiring!

  5. Mami2jcn — May 27, 2012 at 6:17 am

    I enjoyed your post. I don’t “look Latina”, as I’ve heard many people say over the years. When I was in middle school, I was living in a town that wasn’t at all ethnically diverse. So I never mentioned I was Latina. One day someone mistook me for being Italian and I corrected them. After I told them my ethnicity, they called me a “dirty spic”. I was horrified and I never told anyone my background at that school again.

    Where I live now in the South to be “Latina” is to be Mexican. That’s what everyone around here is programmed to think. (I’m a mix of Spanish, Colombian, & Puerto Rican) So there are a lot of misconceptions still about Latinos, their varied complexions, subtle differences in language, and different cultural traditions. I’m glad to see celebrities like Sofia Vergara, Shakira, and Zoe Saldana showing that Latinas come in different colors.

  6. ShellieAndBrutus — May 27, 2012 at 10:18 am

    I don’t look Latina or speak a lot of Spanish but I am and proud to be so!
    Sure we all come from different backgrounds-Mexican Spanish, Puerto Rican, etc, but we are all sisters!

  7. Aracely — May 28, 2012 at 11:12 pm

    Love you amiga! Beautiful post!

  8. Liz — May 30, 2012 at 2:05 pm

    Awwww, Caryn. Thank you for your friendship. Miss you! 🙂

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