I was born in Venezuela to a Venezuelan mother and a Portuguese father. As a Venezuelan, since I started school I have known that I am Latin American. However, beyond jokes and clichés, I think I have never been so aware of what it means to be a Latina woman, until now.
A little piece of my history
I lived in my beloved country during thirty six years of my life, but, for reasons that are not relevant to this article, in 2014 I decided to take a new path, accompanied by my husband and our little 16-month-old daughter.
We emigrated to Costa Rica and lived in that Central American country for just over four years.
During that time, the need to make a more radical change grew in us and after some searches, some research, preparation and determination, it was time to take the great expected leap.
We would finally go to Europe, Sweden to be exact. It was our dream come true, “first world” and the best rated countries, in short, a great achievement.
The days and weeks prior to our long-awaited transatlantic move were the chaos of rigor: selling, giving away, canceling services, visiting friends, farewells, running and more running.
The certainty that we could soon be on a plane heading to the old continent, a new world for us, kept us active, in an adrenaline overdose, excited and fired up.
I still remember my emotion on the plane and my face, immortalized by a “selfie” when I already had a landing point: emotion and pure happiness.
Two flights and a train trip of about 20 minutes, pressured us to the city where we would live this new chapter of our lives.
Recognition as an immigrant
When we left the train station we took a taxi and then something unexpected happened: at that moment, when I saw myself, hanging around with my two daughters (yes, there are now two), my husband and 7 suitcases, for a city of totally unknown and alien landscapes, with a palette of colors so different from what my eyes had always recognized as their home, I recognized myself as an immigrant, different, LATINA.
I had spent years living outside my country of origin, I knew what it was to be a foreigner, but never before had I felt so lost, so far from my references. And it is that Costa Rica, despite not being my country, was still Latin America.
We have been little more than a year in Malmö, a small city in the south of Sweden, where the cultural diversity is very extensive.
Here we cohabit people from 180 different places. Different cultures, ways and beliefs. It’s funny, but when you face an experience like this is when your roots, your identity comes out the most, that makes you who you are.
The latin woman
I am many things, one of them is that I am Latina.
When we talk about latin women, with someone from any other place in the world, they often name personalities like Shakira, JLo, Sofía Vergara. They describe us as voluptuous, attractive women, of exotic beauty, with a good rhythm when dancing, sexy and hot. The truth is that being Latina implies more, much more.
Although these attributes fit with part of us, it is not the only thing that characterizes us and is far from being the most remarkable.
To really talk about the latin woman, I want to think about my mother, my aunts, my grandmother, the rural women, the girl who helped me with the cleaning of my house in Costa Rica, the one who sold me the newspaper twenty years ago at the kiosk near my house.
To talk about the Latin woman, I want to think about Teresa Carreño, Violeta Parra, Rigoberta Menchú, the Mirabal sisters, Isabel Allende, Alicia Alonso, Gabriela Mistral, in the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo, Policarpa Salavarrieta, Manuela Sáenz, Berta Cáceres , in Carolina Herrera, Alondra de la Parra, Gabriela MonteroGa.
Think of those who walk hundreds of kilometers with their children on their backs and four rags, fleeing from hunger and dictatorship, in search of a better future for their offspring.
And it is that the Latin woman is regal, brave, resilient, hardworking, caring, gives her life for her family, for her children.
The Latina woman suffers in silence and laughs outrageously, she gets up at dawn to do what she has to do as long as her children have the bread on the table every day.
She is noble, romantic, naive, helpful, capable of straightening anyone with the power of her flip flop or that of her tireless love.
The Latin woman always wants to be better and thereby improve the life of all her loved ones.
The Latin woman is dedicated, loving, fiery, passionate and that passion accompanies her in everything she does, for this she likes to prepare, educate and stand out, works for excellence, be it a manicurist or a NASA engineer.
Change of scenery
Returning to my experience, I want to emphasize that by recognizing myself as Latina, I have not only been able to observe differences.
I have also been able to identify cultural coincidences and similarities with my environment, so suddenly I find that in order to obtain products that for me are in regular use, I must go to an African or Asian market.
I discovered that some products or customs that perhaps came to Venezuela and had not found in Costa Rica, are of European origin and.
In the Venezuelan case, they arrived due to the post-war migratory tides in the 20th century.
And it is that, that is Latin America, we are the mixture of many cultures, that of our indigenous, conquerors and slaves. It is a mixture that although some today look with suspicion and resentment at how the events occurred in times of conquest and colonization, it is what makes us the way we are.
We are white, black, Indian, we are multicultural and that gives us the strength that represents us. And yes, today I want to say that I feel proud, enormous and robust to know myself, look at myself and show myself what I am, a Latina woman.