I confess: I am definitely the gringa of my family!
OK, first off, let me just tell you this--I have a huge, loud, El Salvadoran family, the majority of which were born and raised there. My "small" family get-togethers and BBQ's often consist of 50+ people (a fact that has consistently astounded my friends and boyfriends over the years) and are laid-back but never quiet or boring. Normally, there's tons of music, booze and enough food to feed several small armies all surrounded by extremely fast-paced conversations in Spanish, or even more likely, Spanglish.
But though I grew up in what I consider a pretty traditional Hispanic culture, eating the food (I could live on beans and rice), knowing the language, and listening to the music, I was born here in the US. My now younger cousins were also born here at various points but I was the first—which makes me the official gringa of the family.
Besides being born here, there are several reasons I've earned that lovely title: I wasn't in a bilingual class growing up. Though two of my closest friends in the world are Hispanic, for no apparent reason, most of my best friends were and still are Caucasian. I have tan skin, dark eyes, and dark hair but I don't look particularly Latina--at least according to the thousands of people who have mistaken me for Italian or 100 other ethnicities.
Most of all, I am completely unconfident when it comes to speaking Spanish. As a toddler, I spoke it more than English but now, I only speak it when I have to and even then, I second-guess myself. Why? Well, my parents--and really, my entire family with very few exceptions--understand English and speak it fluently so it's not like I need it to communicate.
Also, I have a totally gringa accent, one that I absolutely cannot shake even though I don't hear it myself! So the few times I do feel brave enough to speak Spanish, someone (probably one of my own family members!) inevitably laughs at me and says "You're so cute with your little accent"....which, even if it's just meant teasingly, is enough to make me blush and immediately switch to English.
But the thing is, I don't really mind being the gringa of my family. I know that if one of my relatives calls me that, it's just a term of endearment. Plus, it always feels like I have the best of both worlds. I am tuned into to all of the American culture things that I love and enjoy (like bad reality TV and a really good cheeseburger) and then I also have the at-home experience, which is different but equally normal for me.
The two sides gives my family, particularly my parents and I, an opportunity to learn from each other--they tell me stories about growing up in El Salvador and I answer any questions they have about today's happenings. It's like the perfect balance-- and honestly, I wouldn't want it any other way.
Plus, my family throws the best parties, just sayin'.
What is your experience with your Latin family like? Tell us in the comments below!