I always knew my family was different. Although we were not racially different from other families in my town, culturally and ethnically, we didn’t exactly fit the same mold as everyone else. My parents spoke Spanish at home, we ate empanadas, my dad watched fútbol (aka soccer), and we took annual trips to Buenos Aires, Argentina where all my relatives still live today. I grew up in a wealthy, white, predominately Jewish suburb outside of Boston—it is a racially homogenous town and lacks much diversity. Being white and Jewish, my family most definitely fit in on appearance, but there was another layer to my family’s identity that made us stand out from the majority. My friends at school would always ask me where my parents were from and what language they spoke. I think most people in my grade knew I was “the girl with parents from Argentina.”
I can specifically remember one instance where I was in a store with my mom and she loudly called out to me, “Annita!” the diminutive form of Anna in Spanish. My parents have always called me Annita; it’s an endearing name they’ve used for me ever since I was a baby. It is also very common in Latin American families to use the diminutive, for everything, not just names. I remember being furious at her and telling her not to call me “Annita” in public ever again. I was so embarrassed. I did not want everyone around me to hear her calling me that name. I didn’t want to be “othered” or marked as “different.” I wanted to assimilate to the norm, the standard; and I wanted to be just like everyone else. My mom wasn’t sure how to react—she just looked at me in shock and said, “Well, ok, sorry.” I think in that moment I had a heightened awareness of my difference. People would always stare at my parents in public places when they were speaking Spanish, so I always had an understanding that we were different from other families. I use to hate it when my parents would speak Spanish to each other or to my sister and I in public. And I hated when people would stare at us like we didn’t belong. It was uncomfortable and embarrassing and as a young girl I resented this aspect of my identity. As I matured and got older I learned to love and cherish my parents ethnic/cultural background. Now, I strongly value my roots and I feel very connected to my Argentinean culture and identity and it is a large part of who I am today.