It still surprises me when people think that I’m Dominican, simply because I know so much about the country and love to go there. Can’t a girl be enlightened and love a place outside of her own country?
So let me back track a little bit. During the Academic Year of 2002-2003, I lived and studied in Santiago and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. During that time I was completely immersed and exposed to Dominican culture with little or no reprieve. (this was before Facebook, wifi and cute little laptops) I lived with a Dominican family (that I now love dearly and truly view as my own family), had Dominican friends, listened to Merengue, Salsa & Bachata every day, Spoke spanish, ate lots of Dominican food, drank lots of Dominican beer and rum, and was a true member of Dominican society. After that experience, needless to say, I was a hooked and so used to having all of those things in my life on a daily basis, that when I returned to the US I missed it. So I’ve done my best while in the US to keep little pieces of Dominican culture in my life….in some way, shape or form. And this is how it will always be!
Coming from a place like Greensboro, NC that is so black and white when it comes to races and that had a very important role in the civil rights struggle, I was always taught to be proud of who you are and represent that in your life. So when I came back to NC and still wanted to be involved in Dominican culture, many people looked at me like ‘Oh, she wants to be Dominican’ or ‘Oh she thinks she’s a Latina’, but I need for everyone to know this is nowhere near the truth. If anyone has ever left their own culture and lived somewhere for longer than 3 months (I was there for a year), away from their family, their friends, their food, their music, their culture……they actually learn to love and appreciate themselves and their own culture more than they did before. They learn who they are and where they come from more than they ever could have had they never left. And these are lessons that I am still learning. I used to be ashamed to listen to latin music in the car with the windows down because I didn’t want people to think that I was ‘trying to be something that I wasn’t', but I was too young to understand that by hiding what I liked and not doing what truly interested me….I was being that exact person. And I now understand that it is ‘their’ issue…not mine.
So I compare it to this, if someone from Brooklyn moves to Atlanta and gains a love and appreciation for Sweet Tea, Collard Greens, Cornbread, down south music, southern hospitality, southern style tailgating and siting on their porch with neighbors….it does not mean that they do not appreciate Brooklyn or that they are now a Southerner. It simply means that they have the capacity to love and experience more than one culture without losing themselves. It means that they are strong and independent enough to handle it when their friends in Brooklyn begin to crack jokes on how country they now are. It means that they are a grown up and know that the only thing that really matters in this short life is to be happy.
I am not Dominican…but I love that country and EVERYTHING that comes with it….with my whole heart. I am not ashamed to feel this way and if I have it my way, I will move back and make my life there. Does this make me any less of a black american? No! It makes me a more complete human being…..because I am not bound by the culture that I was born into. I am able to choose cultures that interest me and insert myself into them as I see fit. And thats my two cents on the subject.