Summer of Feminista: Feminism Helped Me Understand Being Latina

Written by Kerensa of The Bad Feminist

For me, feminism helped me understand my Latina heritage. My sister and I grew up with my father refusing to teach us about the heritage and culture that defined part of who I was.

We would go to the grocery store to listen to him speak Spanish and not explain what had been said. When I was unfairly treated by my fourth grade teacher, I didn't understand why. Years later, when I heard that she had problems with my dad serving on the school board, I could better understand why. In high school, I finally met my grandfather who lived in Mexico. I just remember how he looked like a taller version of my papa. I spoke a few words of muddled Spanish to him; I couldn't even communicate with my own blood.

Going to visit aunts and uncles and family friends, my sister and I always felt outside. We didn't fit. Our cousins would try to speak with us and then look at our blank faces. "Why can't you speak Spanish?" "I dunno," we responded.

It's not like I felt especially included or connected to my other culture. Watching Beverly Hills 90210 made me feel bad about myself. The Mexican girls at school wouldn't hang out with me, but neither would anyone else. I grew up completely whitewashing over my culture.

When I got to college, I took a women's studies intro class and devoured it. I took a Chicano poetry class and was challenged and excited.  College opened me up to writers like Anzaldua, Cisneros, Alvarez, Moraga. I could understand my experiences as a Mexican-American woman through these books and classes I took.

While I'm still learning and I still feel like I don't fit in either world, for me feminism helped me to understand my experience and culture better. And I'm thankful for that.

Summer of Feminista is a project where Latinas are sharing what feminism means to them. Positive. Negative. Academic statements. Personal stories. Learn more or how you can join the Summer of Feminista. This is a project of Viva la Feminista. Link and quote, but do not repost without written permission.