Opinion: What I learned growing up Hispanic


Andres Fuentes (left), Alejandro Fuentes (bottom center), Armando Fuentes (right) and Cesar Fuentes (middle) enjoying quality family moments Thanksgiving, 2014. Fuentes is proud to be Hispanic. Courtesy of Andres Fuentes. Photo credit: Andres Fuentes

Andres Fuentes

Looking back on my childhood and teenage years, I was very Americanized despite being raised in a Hispanic household.

We did the typical things you would see in any Hispanic household in a middle-class suburban neighborhood. We rented Spanish versions of the Shrek movies at Blockbuster to “better teach us the language.” It felt like we ate tacos just about every other day (which is a blessing and a curse). We sang “Happy Birthday” awkwardly in Spanish and always opened our Christmas presents on Christmas Eve.

But just like everyone else at school, I was obsessed with the same music, I went to the theater to watch the same movies, and I fit in with the crowd despite having a name that no one could correctly pronounce.

As I got older and the economy started to dip, I started to see just how different life was for me.

I know the ideology of, “sacrificing for the family,” isn’t unique to the Hispanic community, but seeing my father undergo pains and strifes for the greater good of my brothers and me is something I would’ve never thought to see from anyone else I knew.

Like his mother before him and her mother before her, my father was a worker in its purest form. Whether he was putting on gloves and boots or cologne and a suit, my dad could handle any job.

Work was what he did. It’s what he was best at. He provided for the family and made sure we had what we wanted, not just what we needed.

But my parents separated when I was in my early teens. His business wasn’t doing too well, and bills were piling up. Through late nights and long days, my father worked to make sure we didn’t lose our house. He made sure the chores were done and our clothes were clean and ironed. He was both a mother and a father to me and my brothers.

Yet, he hadn’t bought new clothes for himself, despite the fact that his clothing began to tear and fade. He made sure we had money in our lunch account before he worried about what he was going to eat. He pushed for us to get a private education so we could pursue better careers than he ever could.

I learned what sacrifice meant from my father. I learned how important it is to see others succeed and to help others grow. It’s something that is rooted in our family.

Just like my dad, I work late nights and early mornings. I take on some of the financial responsibilities of the household and make sure my brother and my dog are doing well.

I do it because he taught me the value of working, of using your free time to benefit someone else. It’s something passed on from our relatives all the way in Mexico.

So I might be a little Americanized. I think the best place to get a taco is Taco Bell. I don’t like watching soccer, and flan is kind of overhyped in my opinion. But I celebrate my Hispanic heritage through what my family has taught me: provide for others around you and always eat the food that Grandma gives you.