Is it weird that I get excited about being called an honorary Latina? I honestly never thought about writing on this topic, but after the fabulous Olga Maria, founder of Latinas Who Travel suggested it to me, I figured it was time to clarify and to contribute my thoughts on what exactly it means to be an honorary Latina.
So just to be clear – I am 100% white! 50% Italian, 25% Polish, 25% Danish, German, and Irish to be exact. 😉 So yeah, pretty white! But if you really knew me, you definitely wouldn’t think I was so white.
My favorite kind of music (currently) is the bachata version of anything. I go crazy for authentic Mexican cuisine and will walk long distances for a good horchata. Latino USA is my all-time favorite podcast and Maria Hinojosa is everything. And if you saw me dancing salsa you’d probably think I was actually Latina and that my hair color is fake. (It’s not, I’m a natural blonde. LOL)
All in all – I am totally aware that I could pass for that bimbo sorority chic at first sight…until you got to know me of course. But hey, give me a break. I’m from Omaha Nebraska.
Believe it or not, my interest in Latino culture and Latin America all started when my 13 year old self became the star in her Spanish class. I needed to maintain my good grades and I always thought it was a “cool” thing to be able to speak another language. So I continued studying throughout high school and college, always looking for opportunities to speak to natives outside of class to practice. It wasn’t until I spent a year studying abroad in Lima Peru that I reached fluency. It took me nearly 8 years to get to this point, so let me be the first to say: Learning a language is not easy! It takes a lot of time, patience, and commitment.
But beyond my love of the Spanish language and the Latino culture, I became increasingly aware of the issues that affect the Latino community and why it’s important that I care about them as an American. Although racially I cannot identify with the struggle of being misrepresented or excluded from the American narrative, I share the vision of having a diverse and unified nation where the cultural diversity of Latin America can be expressed and celebrated as part of the whole of American culture.
Because like it or not, it is part of our American culture! If you haven’t seen the documentary Harvest of Empire, I legit want you to stop reading this article and go watch it on YouTube here. (!)
I could go on and on about this documentary. But, literally, I wrote a 65 page thesis on this topic.
The documentary talks about the history of Latinos and the realities behind their immigrations to the United States over many decades. It ends with a statistic that has changed my world: Approximately 500,000 Latinos in the U.S. will turn 18 every year for the next 20 years. By 2050, the Latino community will grow to 130 million, one third of the total U.S. population. This is in a mere 32 years…! Just let that sit a moment. By the end of the century, a majority of the U.S. will draw its roots, not from Europe, but from Latin America.
This is insane if you ask me. We know what this nation will look like racially, so what will it look like politically? There is going to be much needed changes in policy, representation, and platforms for political voice. We will need individuals pushing for inclusion both in government as well as socially, in schools, workplaces, and communities. The Latino narrative will come in the spotlight more so than all other minority groups of the U.S. and it will be more important than ever to empower this voice letting it flourish in all its sabor y color.
For this reason, I applaud Latina travel bloggers like Olga Maria of Dreamsinheels.com who are breaking stereotypes. I admire women who are passionate about their culture and even more passionate about sharing it. I have mad respect for Latinas who put in the side hustle for their businesses, their education, or just their kids, who never expect anything from anyone, y que siempre van pa’rriba. I see where their efforts are changing spaces, attitudes, generations, conversations, and even our economy. The list goes on and on.
So as you can see, my appreciation for the Latin culture goes way beyond loving margaritas, or having an excuse to party on the 5th of May. (Although, Latinos really do always find excuses to party. LOL) Unlike others in the U.S. who may have a superficial appreciation for the culture, I go beyond this by seeing the enormous impact that Latinos have had and will leave upon my country. With this I encourage those Latinos in the U.S. to share their culture and to contribute to these intercultural exchanges which strengthen our nation as a whole.
I know that as travelers we naturally have this tendency to think we are smaller than we think and that the world is our oyster to learn from, grow from, yada yada… Being humble is important, but let me say this. You and your story are important to the world. So SHARE it! This is my message to all Latin@ travelers:
Don’t just travel to see the sights. Travel with purpose and make your mark on the world by sharing your culture with those you meet along the way. In doing this, it not only allows the other person to learn something new, but it also in turn gives them permission to express who they are and be proud of where they come from. Travelers often tend to be people who have lived diverse life experiences. I think as this global community continues to grow and share their stories, acceptance and cultural ties will strengthen. Travel contributes to intercultural awareness and respect, but only when we participate in the sharing.
If you ask me what it means to be an honorary Latina, I’d say that it takes a deep admiration and appreciation for the culture through travel in Latin America as a bare minimum no doubt. I personally take this a step further by taking an interest in understanding the historical roots of its people and caring for the future of the Latino community in my own country. I’m hoping that this will be enough for the lovely Latina ladies reading this and that they know their immeasurable power and potential. ¡Que sigan para adelante en todo lo que hacen y bendiciones para todas!
¡Hola amigas - soy la Gringa Latina! My name is Lauren and I am originally from Omaha Nebraska. What started out as a need to get good grades in my Spanish class evolved into an endless curiosity, heartfelt admiration, and hunger (yes...literally) for Latin America. I currently live in the City of Eternal Spring, Medellin Colombia, where I blog about the authenticity of the region through sharing empowering stories, highlighting interesting parts of the culture, and speaking out against stereotypes. The Latin culture and people have so much value to teach the world and I intend to capture it all in my blog. I write with a desire to see a better world where intercultural respect is strengthened between Americans and Latinos given their deep historical and cultural connections. I believe that travel is one of the best ways we can achieve this. When I'm not writing for my blog, you'll find me out dancing salsa or bachata, scouring the city for the best Mexican food, or exploring an unknown part of the city con mis amigos.