I did not know I was different from the rest until I was called Mexican in elementary school. I am not Mexican, so I was confused as to why everyone was calling me that. I kept correcting the other children by telling them I was in fact Peruvian and Honduran, but they never understood. They repeatedly pointed out my differences. The worst was when I would be asked to draw my self-portrait, and I would use a brown crayon. All the other kids mocked me and asked me why I was brown. I did not really know and part of me was ashamed because I was not the same skin color as them. Just recently, I have received hateful comments. For example, I was told by a girl in my school that she had to warn her parents that I was Hispanic because “they were not a fan of Hispanics.” I did not like the connotation that was implied. I was not sure what she was trying to tell me. My parents are immigrants and cannot speak English well. Additionally, they each have strong accents. I have seen people at retail stores get mad at my parents because they could not form their sentences in time to ask a question. To make matters worse, when I would speak to my mom in Spanish; people would always stare at us. As a result, I was embarrassed and stayed away from speaking Spanish.
Over time I noticed that there are many other races in the world and that it is okay to be different. These moments of bigotry have only made me more proud of my story and of my culture. For example, I am now practicing an Afro-Peruvian dance for a Peruvian flash mob for Que Pasa Fest in October. I fully embrace my culture and I am not ashamed of who I am. Therefore, I am now proud to say that I am different from the rest. When I was younger I did not want to be different from my classmates. I wanted to fit in and do everything just like them. I wanted to know the latest trends and what everyone was watching, but instead my family and I watched El Chavo del Ocho. No one even knew who El Chavo was and that made me sound uncool to the rest of my classmates. Now I can say that I am not who I am without my heritage. I am proud to be Latina and I have become a stronger woman over the years. As a result, I encourage others to embrace who they are because we are all unique in our own way. Embracing one’s uniqueness is not just about Hispanics but about everyone who feels as if they do not fit in with the mainstream society. I like who I am and I love the culture I was born into. I will never let anyone change who I am, a proud Hispanic.