I recently confessed to my small group that I struggle with being Hispanic. And while some may have not fully understood what I meant or how that could be. I must admit that I felt free.....like a caged bird who had just been released. It has been something I've struggled with my entire life.
You see, I'm a 3rd generation Latino American and I don't speak Spanish fluently. I struggled with learning it as a child and often got confused, so I asked my mom for "English only" (which I regret as an adult), but could totally understand why my little heart would ask for that. I grew up not sure where I fit in. My skin was too tan for white girls and I wasn't "authentic" enough for Hispanics. I also dealt with a constant assumption that Puerto Ricans are the same as Mexicans. There became this distinction that being Puerto Rican was in some way better than being Mexican. So there came a point where I was clarifying how WE ARE NOT THE SAME, all the while denying my very own Mexican heritage.
As an adult I've done everything I could by my own power to prove my worth, and break the negative stereotypes that are often thought of consciously or subconsciously towards someone who is Hispanic. Negative stereotypes such as: when you want to hire a landscaper who is cheap, you hire a Mexican, when you need a mechanic for cheap, you hire a Mexican,....see the pattern here?!? When I first became a portrait and wedding photographer, I began seeing this stereotype be applied to me. Now I admit I could have very well written this story for myself, and allowed something that was not truth to become truth. But the feelings it brought me sucked! Comment after comment, I wondered, "Am I being judged by my last name?" I began to question my own worth as a creative entrepreneur.
The industry also very much so, taught me that I must only show what I want to shoot. That this "type of person" is what is wealthy looked like, which was who could afford me. This marketing strategy left me feeling even more lost and unsure of myself as an artist. Is this what I really dreamed of for my brand? Did I really want to be that exclusive?!? I'm at a place where I'm now asking, how can I create a brand that is inclusive, and where all economic statuses could have an opportunity to be photographed by me and have beautiful photographs of them while valuing my work and time.
As I opened my heart, and began having conversations with others about my struggles, I'm learning to embrace who I am. I'm in a season where I long to be my TRUE self. The person who God created me to be. I'm still journeying through it all, and dismantling the lies I've believed to be true. I recently went to a women's conference and heard a speaker say, "Your culture is not a curse, it's a blessing," she said, "it's time to start having these hard conversations and stop acting like race doesn't matter. It does matter! And ignoring it doesn't change it."
That spoke volumes to me, and I began to allow the Lord to speak and transform my heart. He began to remind me of His word. How I'm His masterpiece, fearfully and wonderfully made. He knows me by name, and knows the numbers of hair on my head. He is with me and for me.
I began asking myself what's my identity, who is she now at 32yrs old? How does she see herself? And while I'm still very much in the process still of answering all these questions, I do know that I have something to say.
There's only ONE me.
I have a voice.
I was created with a purpose and destiny that only I can fulfill.
Because I HAVE A NAME and it matters!
What have been your cultural and racial struggles? Comment below and share your thoughts with me!!!