Illustration by Sandro Galicia, aka Face 2 Face Art.

Op-Ed: Reconnecting With Your Heritage

Words by Maximiliano Nevarez 

Edited by Abigail Vela

As you do in your 20s, I often find myself contemplating who I am. For years (most of my life by comparison), I believed that my heritage and its culture were irrelevant or restrictive to who I was as an individual, and while it can have that effect, I would later learn that there’s so much more to it. Going into National Hispanic Heritage Month, I’ve been coming out of a period of seclusion, being relevant only because it’s that exact heritage that reminds me I’m not alone.

Lost In Translation: Who I Was

Things were pretty hectic in the younger years of my life. I was born in Mexico and came to the Valley with my mom and sister when I was three to live with my abuela. We lived comfortably here for about two years before the three of us left for a town north of here. I was a child and didn’t understand what any of this meant, but it was around this time I remember starting to lose my Spanish. My mom and sister still spoke it, but I was moved to an English-speaking class when we moved, and I just adapted. 

 

I don’t remember being told Hispanic Heritage Month existed when I was younger, and my family eventually phased out holidays like Dia de los Reyes, so I thought assimilating was the move. By the time I was a teenager, troubles at home started, which caused my sister to move back to the Valley and for me to run from home by the time I was 16. By this point, I was pretty disconnected from my family and culture. While I appreciate and love every person and family that took me in when I was away from home, my last connection was the personal rituals I would practice, like having a miniature altar for Dia de los Muertos. The only connection I had left to the culture was my mom, who I spoke to less and less. 

A cartoonish colorful plate of chilaquiles with the word ‘Chilaquiles’ repeated at the top and bottom of the plate in bold letters.
Illustration by Sandro Galicia, aka Face 2 Face Art.

When I was 16, I returned to the Valley. Nostalgia aside, there was an atmosphere here that made me feel like I was closer to home. I was resistant at first, being the kind of teenager I was, but slowly, I started remembering parts of my culture I had forgotten. It started with small stuff that gave me joy as a child, like trying chilaquiles again or remembering Alegrijes y Rebujos, a children’s mystery and horror-like telenovela. 

 

Something this small made me realize that even a small piece of media can impact who you are. I barely recognized the show when I saw it again, but the more I watched, the more I could see how much of my horror, fantasy, and dramatic-centered interests started there. When we moved to the town north of here, that would be the exact show that would get me into shows like Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy and Invader Zim, which itself had its chain reaction. 

Crecimiento del Personaje: Who I Am

After realizing this, I started seeking out the culture on top of being surrounded by it. My sister reintroduced me to singers like Julieta Venegas and a personal favorite, Natalia Lafourcade, which developed my musical taste. I tried my abuela’s cooking and local restaurants like Bodega Tavern and Kitchen and The Taco Party Run (silly name, great tacos), which developed my taste in food. Perhaps most importantly, I developed my sense of family and community by interacting with local artists and organizers like my friends Dee and Ascension and reconnecting with my blood ties here. 

 

As stated before, I used to think that my heritage and its culture were restrictive of my individuality. It took a lot of time, but I eventually learned how that same culture helped me further develop who I am and discover who I can be as a member of my community and family. It can come off as overdramatic, but some aspects of my personality and taste would frankly be underdeveloped if I didn’t explore the art, history, and media from a part of my life I chose to ignore for a long time.

Illustration by Sandro Galicia, aka Face 2 Face Art.

Part of You: Who Could You Be?

If you want to reconnect with this part of your life, it’s the perfect time as National Hispanic Heritage Month turns the corner. You can do it when you’re ready and at your own pace, so I highly suggest injecting some of that culture into your everyday life. That can be as simple as introducing a few new songs from your culture or putting on a kid’s show if you’re being reintroduced to the language. 

 

You can also go out into the community and keep updated on local pop-ups, art shows, and performances, like the monthly pop-ups at Moonbeans and the local Drag Shows at Mamitas. Keep updated with events posted by CommonSpace and Trucha!

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