Wait, Where Are You From? It’s Complicated.

I recently discovered I am a third culture child. 


My parents are Cuban, I grew up in the Bahamas, and now I live in America – those are three cultures of which I am a part of. This holds significance to me because, while I love my cultural background, it confuses me greatly. Why? Because I do not know to which culture I truly belong.


Let’s get one thing straight: My skin is white. But my parents are Cuban by blood and culture, growing up and spending decades there before escaping the dictatorship. My father is a white Cuban, his actual skin more a flushed red, a trait most of his side of the family shares since his grandparents were from Spain and exiled to Cuba. My mother, however, is brown, of indigenous origin, specifically of Cuba’s Taíno people. But, as many mixed kids do, I obtained a skin tone closer to that of my father’s than my mother’s, so I am white-passing.


So now comes my first dilemma: I fluently speak Spanish (sometimes with an accent), I understand and frequently use Cuban slang, and, before the coronavirus, I practiced Latino gestures, such as kissing people on the cheek to greet them. My family only speaks Spanish at home, we watch television in Spanish, everything is in Spanish. I even had my quinceañera pictures taken.


But despite my constant direct exposure to Latino culture, I feel like an alien. I know I may sound insane, but here is my reasoning: I do not typically listen to its music. Sure, I know the classic songs, a few of the latest hits, but that’s about it. Instead, my primary taste in music is pop-punk and emo rock, genres that are typically very far from the norms of Hispanic culture. At every quinceañera, I may be dancing, but everyone is also pointing out how my form is wrong, how it is comical, how I am “dancing like a white girl.” Even in daily social situations with my Latinx friends, there are things I do not quite understand – jokes and pop culture trends with which I am out of touch. 


And that brings me to my second dilemma, which is quite similar to the first. When my parents were escaping Cuba, they accidentally ended up in the Bahamas; and I ended up spending quite a significant portion of my early life in Nassau, which, from what I have seen and lived, has a serious racial problem. Most of the white people on the island are locked away in their mansions in the hills while the rest of the people, who are primarily black, are stuck down in the poverty of the lower side. I lived like the majority of the population – down on the lower side; so I spent my formative years with black people. All my friends were black. I went to all-black schools. My parents and I made a lasting friendship with a black family there, making us treat each other as if we were related by blood. I celebrated the Junkanoo festival, I went to cookouts, I even had a Bahamian accent. 


But when my parents and I left the Bahamas to come to America, I was forced to unlearn my Bahamian accent in my new American school; and I lost touch with my family on the islands. Today, even when we talk, I feel alienated from my Bahamian family, just like I do with my Latinx friends.


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“Okay, so, now you’re an American,” you might say.


I mean, sure, but I struggle to keep in touch with American people too. I have been up north; and with the way many people treated me there, I know they also do not think I belong.


So where does that leave me?


The truth is, I do not know.


I guess, if anything, I am the most Latina. But again, my skin is white; so I will never know the true struggle of Latinx people.


It is funny in some cruel way: the fact that being truly part of a culture is associated with marginalization, oppression, and suffering.


I feel like I fit nowhere, just sitting in a cultural limbo. I feel like I am not Latina enough, and I definitely do not look Bahamian.


But I still try to keep some aspects of the cultures I grew up with and to emulate them. I like doing simple things, like wearing hoop earrings or cooking and eating traditional foods. But sometimes I feel like I do not deserve to enjoy these things because my skin is white. It feels like I am appropriating my own culture, if that makes sense. In short, I feel like an outsider. 


Have you seen that Tiktok trend where people dress in the traditional clothing of their cultures? I have always wanted to do that with Cuban and Bahamian clothing. I want to proudly wear my beautiful Cuban rumba dress, to show off my gorgeous Bahamian Junkanoo outfit. But I am afraid that I would be disrespectful for doing that, that I would be canceled for it, despite how much I identify with it.


But to the world, no matter how much I may deny it, I am white. And to that fact, I hold undeniable shame. I feel wrong, I feel bad, I feel like a failure.


Because I will never know the authentic experiences or the true struggles of my people.


But that does not mean I do not love where I came from, as well as my families from two different worlds. Because even if I do not look the part, even if I will never truly fit in, my three cultures are what made me who I am today.


And, for that, I am grateful.