Spanish was my first language, but it was one that I rejected growing up. As a child, I saw my parents, especially my father, struggle with the English language and face ridicule for it. My father, to this day, is hesitant to speak English as he is self-conscious about his thick Cuban accent and his difficulty pronouncing certain words. To some degree I was embarrassed by this, and I sought to distance myself from anything related to my Hispanic heritage. I hated the fact that speaking Spanish was the only way I could communicate with my grandparents. I wished my family would celebrate the traditional American Christmas holiday celebrated by many of my friends and classmates instead of the Cuban “Noche Buena.” Most of all, however, I disliked attending large family gatherings where the strains Mambo and Salsa, the smells of traditional Cuban party fare, and the constant murmur of Cuban dialect all served as constant reminders of the heritage I sought to avoid.
As I grew older, I came to understand the insensitivity and the immaturity of my ways as I became aware of the challenges my parents had to face. Both had come to the United States after being exiled from Cuba as a result of the Revolution. They faced extreme poverty, but more importantly, they had to overcome language obstacles, cultural barriers, and overt prejudice. In spite of these challenges, they still remained proud of their background. I came to appreciate the efforts of my parents, and on a personal level, realized that my worldview was largely shaped by my Cuban roots. My religious, political, and cultural views were all products of my Cuban heritage.
My four years at ___ University solidified my pride for my Hispanic heritage. I did experience some prejudiced remarks about my Cuban background, but such instances were a minor part of my college experience. Instead, I endeavored to use the opportunities afforded to me by my school to further learn about my roots and bring the unique aspects of my culture to my college’s community. As a music producer, I incorporated the rhythms of traditional Cuban music with contemporary electronic sounds. I use my music to educate others about the beauty of the Afro-Cuban musical tradition- one that I had initially shied away from, but had come to love. Furthermore, I used my position as a radio disc-jockey to play the records of popular Cuban musicians. On a more meaningful level, I worked with my school’s latino student organization to help the local Latino community.