And now, story time with Richard.
I was once playing Cards Against Humanity with Laura (my fiancée) and my good friends Tony, Lee Ann, and Ashley. A card came up and Laura was the one slotted to pick. I forget what the question was or what the other answers were but one of the cards in play talked about a “Latin lover.” That card did not win and Ashley, who had played it, got angry because she thought the card was perfect for Laura. “Why?” I asked. “What does Laura have to do with a Latin lover?” Someone said in response (can’t remember who), “You’re Cuban, aren’t you?” “So? …Oh… Wait…”
This .gif will make sense later in the article, trust me.
I’ve talked a lot about my nerdy side on this blog but I have never talked about my cultural heritage. As noted above, I’m Cuban-American. Both my parents are Cubans. They come from a long line of big Cuban families. However, even though I am Cuban, I have never really identified as Hispanic or Latino or whatever.
It’s sort of a saying of mine that I’m “the whitest Hispanic guy you’ll ever meet.” This is a saying that sort of has two meanings: First, I’m extremely pale due mostly to the fact that I burn easy in the sun so I tend not to stay out much; and second, I feel like I mostly act like a typical American rather than a typical Cuban-American. This is largely because I forget most of the time that I technically have a Hispanic heritage.
Part of the problem is, nowadays, rather than consider myself from a heritage standpoint, I mostly think of myself in regards to my taste in pop culture. I’ve said it before and it’ll always be true: I am a nerd. I like movies, video games, comic books, etc. I’m almost obsessed with entertainment media. I consume a lot of media from all walks of life, which makes me put more and more distance between myself and my personal cultural background. I guess you could say that I’ve lost my heritage a little.
When I truly sit down and think about it, I can pinpoint all the little ways that I still see Cuban-ness in my life: I drink cafe con leche (basically a Cuban version of a latte); I love arroz con pollo (rice and chicken, but a specific recipe); I remember being really into Hispanic heritage month when my elementary school would celebrate it; I know a few Spanish songs, including a lot of Christmas carols that don’t translate well. The biggest problem I have with identifying as a Cuban is the language.
Although I do understand Spanish (Cuban Spanish, at least, which has a few differences from “real” Spanish) I don’t really consider myself to be fluent in it. In fact, I barely qualify myself to be bilingual. See, I am not confident in my own Spanish abilities. I don’t feel like I’m very good at it. I always forget words, mix up tenses, struggle to find the thing I’m trying to say. So I tend to avoid speaking Spanish because I’m afraid to embarrass myself. As Sofia Vergara says up there “do you have any idea how frustrating it is to have to translate everything in my head before I say it?” Speaking Spanish, for the rest of my family, is either second nature or (for some of them) their first language. Being as I’m Cuban, they expect me to know it as well as they do. As such, when I was younger, I was picked on by some of my family (although it was all good-natured ribbing) that I couldn’t speak Spanish as well as they could. However, I realize even as I type this that I was being unfair. Just like they expected me to speak a language I wasn’t overly comfortable with, I expected them to speak MY language when I’m sure some of them weren’t very comfortable speaking it either. Huh. Guess I’m a bit of a hypocrite. But that’s enough about my personal epiphany.
The bottom line here is, sometimes I forget I’m Cuban. Some people might say that it’s a tragedy that I’ve lost that part of my heritage. But even if I forget sometimes, it doesn’t change the fact that I am. I talk with my hands and I talk loudly; although I’ve mellowed out a little, I have a bit of an explosive temper; and although my Spanish isn’t the greatest, I can at least still understand it. I’m still proud of my heritage and nothing will ever change that.