Ray Aguilera: I mean, I like people and I, or at least a few of them, but I also like to sit at my house and be by myself.
Charlie Garcia: I like a few people and my dog.
Lisann Ramos: Even dogs for me, I’ve realizing more and more of like, dogs are too much energy. They deplete me entirely.
Liz Alarcón: What your hearing in the background is usually how our meetings go. There’s always a little banter before we get into creating episodes for the Pulso podcast. Pulso is made up of a team of folks who hold different identities and who each have their own unique relationships with Latinidad. That’s what we’re going to talk about on today’s episode. You’re going to hear from the people behind the scenes of the Pulso pod – Charlie, Lisann, and Ray – whose families come from Colombian, Cuban, and Mexican backgrounds. Their assignment? They had to choose a family member to converse with about how they relate to their own Latino identity. Keep listening to hear snippets of the interviews with their fam and the collective reflections of the team behind the pod about being Latino. Here’s Producer Charlie Garcia.
Charlie Garcia: So the interview that I did, I interviewed my dad. And I don’t know if I’ve, I’ve told you all, the family story history of, the Colombian side of my family, but my grandparents came to the U S in the fifties and settled in New York city where they had my dad. They were both immigrants and they were both educated, but they didn’t speak the language particularly well. Um, and then they had my dad who was a first generation American, and he had this whole journey of how he related with, with the US, how he related with his Colombian heritage and how it evolved through his life. Um, so the, the first clip I have is him talking about, um, assimilation and how it affects how you feel about your own culture and how that changes over time.
Charlie’s Dad: When you first feel the need to assimilate, there’s almost a rebellion that you feel against your home culture, because in a sense, it’s what you’re trying to go away from as you try to enter this new culture. Um, and it’s not a bad thing, it’s not an evil thing. It’s probably just an inevitable thing as you try to make a transition between two cultures or straddling two cultures. Later in life, as you get older and, and you, you become more aware. Of your own history and your own roots, all of a sudden what used to be a mild sense of shame about your old background suddenly becomes a great source of pride as you realize that this is where you came from. The source of yourself, of your family, of your traditions. Um, and so the culture that you once sort of shunted aside as you tried to assimilate to this new culture, suddenly takes on a much more important place in your life.
Lisann Ramos: That’s a lot. What wereyou thinking when he said that when he was talking about that?
Liz Alarcón: That’s Producer Lisann Ramos.
Charlie Garcia: You know, it was interesting for me because I’ve just, I never had have had that experience at really actually, you know what, maybe I have, now that I think about it. But less so, I never had to push it away because it was never really there for me. Um, until later I realized, oh, I am, I am Hispanic. Um, but for him very different because he, he really did come from that.
Lisann Ramos: Oh, yeah, it’s, that’s the whole experience, uh, from where I’m sitting quite literally where I’m sitting, in my hometown of Miami, but also just being exposed to, you know, American media American, like everything, obviously we were the United States. So it was, it was, the lines were a little more blurred. It wasn’t like I’m rejecting this culture. Um, I’m going to now be American and then I can kind of go back. Like it depended on the day. What felt like we could identify more with, so I get it.
Ray Aguilera: The idea of wanting to like, reconnect really resonates with me.
Liz Alarcón: That’s Producer Ray Aguilera.
Ray Aguilera: Like my grandfather loves mariachi music and um, we would go to a couple of Mexican restaurants in town that always had mariachis and my grandpa would just start like tipping them. So then they would just like camp out at our table. And I used to hate it as a kid cause it was so loud and they’re like right there and I’m like, okay, I’m just trying to eat my carnitas in peace, you know?
Charlie Garcia: Was it like just a loud thing? Or were you embarrassed as a kid that like your table was the mariachi table?
Ray Aguilera: It was definitely that too. It was like, oh man, we’re like those people, you know what I mean? But, but now as an adult, when the mariachi comes in, I’m stoked about it. I definitely have that experience of like wanting to get some of that back, but I just, I did push a lot of that stuff away. And then now as an adult, it’s like, I’m spending a lot of my time and energy pulling it back in and like learning to cook the food and, and, and learning the music and I wish I could learn to speak Spanish. I’ve tried, but I just don’t have the aptitude for it now I don’t think.
Charlie Garcia: With me too, I never learned to speak Spanish and it’s still like a huge sore spot for me. Um, because now as a 30 year old to learn Spanish, it’s a huge monumental effort to be able to do that. But as a one year old, the only effort would have been my dad’s speaking to me in Spanish. Um, you know, which it was zero effort, but he didn’t, and I’ve always been upset about it, but I’ve never really asked him about it until this conversation.
I’ve always wanted to know why didn’t I learn Spanish as a, as a child? Like, why didn’t you speak more Spanish? Was it because my mom, my mom didn’t speak Spanish?
Charlie’s Dad: Yeah. Yeah. I don’t know. I didn’t feel an imperative to teach you that language. And I don’t know why. I don’t know.
Charlie Garcia: Do you think it was conscious or just kind of, not really.
Charlie’s Dad: I guess it wasn’t, I guess ultimately it didn’t feel that important too. Um, I thought English was the real important language, but you got by in Bogota for a couple of weeks there.
Charlie Garcia: Barely, barely, but I did.
Charlie’s Dad: Yeah. And you know, Spanish was my first language because my parents were speaking Spanish at that time when I was. So my initial orientation was towards the Spanish language, not the English language. And that’s because of the first-generation American thing. You were second generation American by then you had a totally gringo dad, right? Yeah.
Lisann Ramos: I love, I love a confrontation between father and son. Why didn’t you do this?
Ray Aguilera: Hearing that, and obviously not knowing your dad, like I can, at least it sounds to me like there’s definitely a little bit of regret there when you asked that question, like you can kind of hear it in his voice.
Charlie Garcia: Yeah. I just don’t think he ever thought about it and it’s almost like until I asked this, when I asked this question and you can kind of hear the gears turning in his head of like, oh yeah, that that’s a thing. I feel like the lesson here is force your significant other to speak your language.
If you’re going to have kids
Ray Aguilera: Yeah. I agree with that. I have some friends who are both white, but they’re sending their daughter to like a bilingual English, Spanish immersion school. Like my friend was like, what do you think about that? You know, kind of like, eh, I don’t know is that is that crunchy and weird? I was like no, I think that’s awesome and I’m super jealous. And like, maybe she can come over and give me Spanish lessons.
Charlie Garcia: A little white girl.
Ray Aguilera: Yeah, I’ll take it, man.
Lisann Ramos: You know, Spanish was my first language. What I grew up with was a lot of judgment from elders about the type of Spanish you spoke and whether it was appropriate enough or you know, everyone felt they were the keepers of the Spanish and us little, you know, kiddos that were born here were, uh, directly insulting them by, you know, existing and speaking English. I’ve had experiences in Spain, I have a, my mom’s cousin moved to Spain. And I went over to visit her. Uh, she was with this man who was a German man, but he really felt the need to sit me down and tell me, well, the Spanish you guys speak is not real Spanish. The real Spanish is a Spanish spoken here, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
Charlie Garcia: The most offensive part of that to me, is that a German sat you down and told you your Spanish good enough.
Ray Aguilera: Yeah.
Lisann Ramos: Oh God.
Ray Aguilera: Wow.
Lisann Ramos: Yeah. Oh no. He’s, it’s a whole thing.
So I have one more clip to play and this one was actually dad and I talking about the work that I’m doing here at pool, so, and, how it’s like another way to come in to contact with my, my heritage.
Charlie’s Dad: I think it’s, it’s really interesting that you’re working, for example, on a project, like Pulso that sort of, kind of reawakens your own sense of heritage.
Charlie Garcia: Yeah. Well producing for Pulso has completely reawakened my sense of heritage and, and my connection with that heritage because I didn’t, I didn’t really grow up as a second generation American, you know, we went to Colombia and we spend time with the, your side of the family. Still it was never something that I identified with. In fact, I, I mean, it was like, I really thought I was white, like if, if a cat grows up with a bunch of dogs, the cat thinks it’s a dog and growing up in suburban Georgia, um, I, you know, I didn’t even really realize that I was Hispanic until later. Um, and even, and it was just something I never identified with. Um, so it’s, it’s been, it’s been really interesting to kind of uncover that.
So there’s my personal moment for the day.
Liz Alarcón: How do you feel now, Charlie, after having been immersed in Latino ness with Warsaw for about a year now,
Charlie Garcia: You know, one of the main things I’ve taken from it is, is the complexity of the, of the situation or that it is in the US.
Liz Alarcón: We are a situation.
Charlie Garcia: Yeah, and throughout, Latin America, you know, it’s so easy. And I understand why people who like, you know, white people or who aren’t really steeped in that kind of of they group everyone together here because, because that’s what we do as humans. And we, we need to put things in boxes to simplify the world because it’s such a complex world. Um, but you know, here, we’re, we’re just diving into those complexities head first. Um, and it’s been incredible to, realize how much more complicated all of this has than I could have ever realized.
Liz Alarcón: There’s no right or wrong way to Latino, Latinx, Hispanic there’s no or wrong way to call ourselves. There’s no right or wrong way to stay connected to our heritage. Even the exploration of what it means to celebrate our roots. And I think that’s what makes being so interesting.
Charlie Garcia: Yeah. And, and almost like, almost like there’s not a right and a wrong way, but there is a wrong way and a right way, depending on who you ask at the same time, which is another layer of it. Okay. So we have a clip from Lisann. Do you want to preface this at all Lisann? And who, who, who is in this?
Lisann Ramos: The clip is of my sister and we talk about the differences that we see between mixing of languages, mixing of generations.
Lisann’s Sister: Spanish was my first language until I was three or four. My mom sent me to school and I learned English in 10 minutes or so she says, and then it was like given my grandparents always spoke Spanish. So would talk to them in Spanish. Um, I will never forget. I was like a lot older than I care to admit, I was watching the Rugrats like, like what’s his name? Tommy’s grandfather started the grandpa Pickles is that what his name was? What a weird show. His grandfather was speaking English. And I was like, what? Old people speak English? I just assumed because all of the people above the age of 70 spoke Spanish. So I had this idea as a small child that only old people spoke Spanish. And then I was like, wait, that kind of makes sense. It’s not like they’ve turned 70 and they get slapped with Rosetta Stone and only speaks Spanish, but it was just like, that was my life. Like in my life, only old people spoke Spanish. So it was weird to see an old person, even in a cartoon speaking English, because that was something that was so like not in my headspace, like it was not in my realm of reality at that time.
Charlie Garcia: Did you all grow up in Miami?
Lisann Ramos: Mhmm.
Charlie Garcia: Okay. It’s interesting. Cause it’s just so different than my experience because you were around a community that, that still really was, was with that. Whereas I think Ray and I, like, we didn’t have that kind of community that, that, that kept all the, the heritage and the language.
Ray Aguilera: It is interesting though, because I I never had a moment that, but it actually does ring true. Like all the really old people Spanish, but but they could also speak English now that I’m thinking.
Lisann Ramos: Yeah, it was very broken English. Um, we would kind of like, like, turned it into a joke, like with my grandparents, say certain phrases. And like, with my grandmother, every time I saw, like every time we would like leave each other, like I’d go home. Um, cause she also kind of helped raise me. So I I’d be like until tomorrow and she’d be like undid the bottle and then we would like, and then I would say with the accent. So like, it was the same like kind of making fun of the language barrier, but like also just yeah. Cause you know, why not make fun of everything. That’s also just part of the culture.
Liz Alarcón: Latino identity is complicated, so this conversation isn’t over. And we want to keep having it with you. Send us your anecdotes about how you relate to your own Latino identity to [email protected] or leave us a voicemail at 612-440-3840. Thanks for listening.