Where This Flower Blooms:

Growing Up With Culture Clashes and How It Shaped Me

By Anna Ortega

            The sun beams through my bedroom window as I gently open my eyes; my room is filled with the familiar warmth of the sun. Downstairs, I hear my Mami’s strident voice carry on about my dog’s new haircut. “Te vez so handsome, Bear! Un perrito bien guapo,” she remarks. “Que bueno que no mordistes la muchacha que te corta los pelos!” I hear her along with my Bibi (my grandmother) and Patu (my father) break into jovial laughter; thus begins a typical day in the Ortega household.

            Growing up in a Venezuelan family, I was raised with the customs and beliefs that typical Latinos share; for example, rather than playing popular Christmas tunes during the holiday season, my house would be flooded with cheerful gaitas, which are Venezuelan songs about the coming of Christ. My parents sought to immerse me in every part of the culture, so we would travel to our home country regularly throughout my childhood, and to this day, I remember Margarita, the island on which my grandmother lives, to a tee: the sweetness of saltwater in the air, the aroma of arepa stands in the streets, the radiating warmth of the golden sun. One of the most important aspects of Latino culture is the closeness one has to their family, which has impacted what I do, how I act, and where I go. Because closeness between family is so significant in Venezuelan culture, family members and friends feel comfortable confiding not only in each other, but in others as well. The bond they form with each other makes them feel like they can truly be themselves without the restrictions of personal boundaries or, as my mom likes to call it, “political correctness.”

            As an adolescent in the tech-driven United States, however, my choices, personality, and beliefs have been heavily influenced by the media and society here. The older I grew, the more knowledge I gained on people in the world around me and the differences between them; I became more aware of the different ways in which people led their lives due to the contrasting differences in their beliefs. By interacting with others online and reading or hearing their experiences, I became aware of the problems that plague American society today, such as sexism, racism, and other types of discrimination, and I then took it upon myself to inform myself on these issues and how to face them. Through this quest for knowledge, I inadvertently found myself and where I fit in with all of this; due to the limitations ethnicity and gender have had on other women like me and the possible ways this could affect me, I have become interested in liberal politics and intersectional feminism. These viewpoints have strongly influenced my opinions on a wide variety of topics, ranging from modern social justice issues in minority communities to the cutbacks in national healthcare throughout the United States. Also, a special characteristic of the United States’ culture is the way in which people interact with each other. While people here are often polite with each other, they tend to keep themselves inside a bubble, avoiding invading each other’s personal space or being intrusive. By watching these interactions as a child and taking part in them as I got older, I learned the importance of respecting personal boundaries and to be protective of my own.

            As a child, growing up with two contrasting cultures never affected me much, as I did not have a complete understanding of either one; I stuck to my parents’ belief system and listened to whatever they said, never questioning what they would say. However, as I got older and was able to educate myself about certain topics, I found myself disagreeing more with their viewpoints and beliefs. There are many stark differences between the Latino household and belief system I was raised into and the media culture ideals I adopted. Because my family has largely conservative ideals, my house is predominantly a conservative environment; therefore, my parents and I often clash due to the disagreements we have on several issues. For example, my father was an avid Donald Trump supporter in the recent elections while I was an unwavering Bernie Sanders supporter, leading to several disagreements and political/moral discussions between us. Although these clashes were difficult at times, they ultimately helped me mature and realize who I want to be and what I believe in, regardless if it went against what my family believed in.

            Throughout my life, the combination and clash between the two environments that I have been raised in have helped me become the person I am today and realize who I want to be. However, I am only one of an entire generation. There are several other adolescents just like me, kids who become their own person from a blend of two or more influencing environments. We are a new seed stemming from the synthesis of two different flowers. Our acknowledgement of the contrast between cultures allows us to see on both sides and be more accepting of the different lifestyles people lead. When we are olderand are able to make our mark, we will bring great changes to the world, merging together a wide range of cultures to create a peaceful, accepting, and diverse society.