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Cultural Conflicts of Growing Up Latina With Immigrant Parents

Cultural Conflicts of Growing Up Latina With Immigrant Parents

 Growing up as a 1st generation Latina

Adapting to a new culture is a process that is easier discussed than applied. It has been 22 years since my family and I immigrated to the United States, and yet, we are still navigating the complexities of fitting into this country, both as a family and as individuals. Some of my most vivid memories are those which revolve around the clashing of the culture I was born into and the culture in which I had no choice but to adapt to. These moments range in complexity; from being amazed that children could eat cereal for breakfast as opposed to an arepa con huevo y arroz, to more complex moments like the discomfort of being referred to as an “ESOL kid” because I was separated from my kindergarten class for two hours each day to be taught English.

As I grew older, the cultural differences began to follow me in interactions with fellow classmates. As a teenager, I remember wanting to attend sleepovers or attend the movies alone with my friends, but my parents would forbid me to do so because “eso no se hace en Colombia.” As usual, I was an “other,” the girl with the strict Latino parents and in full melodramatic teenage fashion, I swore that my parents were out to ruin my life. I can’t count the times that I wanted to remind my parents that we were living in the United States and that we had left Colombia many years earlier, but of course, those words never actually came out of my mouth.

 Growing up 1st generation Latina in the U.S.

Fortunately, I found comfort in some of my fellow Latino classmates who were going through the same exact adaptation process. While we never spoke of it, we relied on each other to successfully get through this balancing act we were living each day. It was comforting to hear stories that sounded so much like mine. For once, I was understood, and nobody thought I was weird because I couldn’t go to sleepovers or leave the house whenever I wanted to.

It really wasn’t until adulthood that I realized that my parents insisted on raising me as if we were still living in Colombia because it was just as hard for them to adapt to a new culture as it was for me.

Back home, my mother was a school teacher while my father was a graphic designer. Immediately upon arrival to this country, they were both unemployed with degrees that did not count here. My parents went from being fully independent and able to freely communicate with people who spoke the same language to struggling to get by on basic English, and most of the time, needed their children to translate more complex conversations for them. This sudden and drastic change was very hard for my parents to cope with and probably felt like a loss of control.

I understood that my parents wanted to raise their children in a way that would allow them to maintain aspects of their own identities and culture. While I remember all the times I was upset at my parents for their rules, I am grateful that my parents did what they could to protect me so zealously from any danger or trouble I could get myself into. I especially admire my parents for being able to do so despite going through their own hardships in adapting to this country and learning the ebb and flow of an entirely new community from scratch.

Did you grow up with immigrant parents? What were your experiences like? Share with us in the comments below.



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