While I was in Mexico this summer a young Mexican woman asked me, “It must be a beautiful thing—to have two cultures, no?” I smiled and responded, “Sí.”
I have grown up all my life in the corn-growing, Midwestern state of Iowa, but if asked my nationality it would be Puerto Rican. Living in the United States and having mostly American friends has immersed me in the American culture, yet when I come home, Hispanic culture fills the air. Growing up I never fully comprehended how unique and special it is to be absorbed into two different cultures. However, as I have grown older I have started realizing that it is truly wonderful.
This summer my family and I visited Puerto Rico for three amazing weeks, and during one of them I took the ferry to the even smaller island of Vieques where my maternal family lives. One hot day, after I enjoyed the beach, my uncle boiled the crabs that my grandma had been feeding and taking care of in her backyard. Soon after, he laid out ten cooked, unseasoned crabs onto the kitchen table. The whole family congregated toward them and with claws, flesh, liquid, and exoskeleton strewn on the kitchen table everyone grabbed pieces and started eating. While watching and participating in the completely foreign yet exquisitely wonderful scene I realized how immensely different this picture was to anything my friends had ever experienced.
The next time I realized the importance of different cultures in my life I was in Mexico for a mission’s trip. After having used my Spanish for three weeks while in Puerto Rico, the language was becoming easier to use and my tongue was able to wrap itself around the words with less difficulty. Because of this, I was able to communicate with the Mexican people. In Mexico, I saw such happiness exuberate through people and though I may not be Mexican, I realized that I was still connected to them through something much deeper and greater: the similarity in culture and language. There I felt like I belonged to something much bigger than myself: a history, a language, a culture that underneath it all tied this blessed, young Iowan girl to others around me.
Having two different cultures is so fascinating because in a way I can see two different perspectives of life. I can live the “American dream” or dance the merengue. Culture is the tie that brings generations and peoples from different walks of life together, because they all have a common identity, something that keeps them together, that connects them and binds them to the feeling of tangible belonging.
Culture lives, breathes, connects and it is ever changing yet keeps tradition. Culture clings in the air and brings life and love. I believe in the beauty of culture.
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