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YAC by Lyssa Marlyn Fuentes: Latina student shares thoughts on having a positive cultural identity

Published in the February 1 – 14, 2017 issue of Morgan Hill Life

By Lyssa Marlyn Fuentes

Positive cultural identity, Developmental Asset No. 41, is when a young person feels comfortable with and proud of her/his cultural background. That is the definition, but to me identity is more than just that. Identity is who you are, where you come from, and why you are who you are.

This is one of my favorite Developmental Assets because it makes me unique. We all have a culture, we all have roots, and we are all different. Our cultures can make us proud of who we are or they can make us ashamed. I like to think that everyone is proud of who they are no matter where people come from, what they look like, or who they are because in the end we are all different.

I am proud of who I am, a proud Latina. I like who I am no matter what people say. Everyone has a different, unique and amazing culture that they should be proud of because it forms part of who they are.

Racism, hate, and judgment are very common in the world today and it affects who we are and how we are shaped. As a Hispanic, these things affect me.

Racism, hate and judgment ruin our pride of who we are and where we come from. And it happens often, even at school where I should feel safe and accepted for my cultural identity. I feel as if my culture is not accepted or allowed to be expressed without being judged or labeled.

My identity is something I am proud of as a Hispanic. I’m proud of my hardworking ancestors who grew up as independents, but I feel insecure about it because I have been judged.

Apart from there being a delightful side, there is always a downside that we cannot ignore. Racism, judgment and hate is global and we should make the best out of it and help those who need a bit of support getting to know who they are as well as why they and their culture matter to this society.

Positive cultural identity is not as easy in this generation as it used to be. There is so much more racism and hate that sometimes there are people who don’t make us feel proud of our amazing cultures and it starts at a young age. As far back as elementary school, I remember being bullied for being Hispanic.

These experiences have never stopped me from being proud of who I am because I was taught by my loving family “no te de vergüenza de donde vienes o quien eres” (don’t be ashamed of where you come from or who you are). That is when I started to realize if I let people judge me on who I am, I will never be proud of who I am. I would just be ashamed of myself.

Today, I couldn’t be more proud. Through the support of many friends, family and YAC, I learned that we can choose how we want to see ourselves. We can either hide who we are or we can express our love for our culture and celebrate who we are.

This Developmental Asset should be common and shared between children, teens and adults. We should all be proud of who we are and where we come from.

We should not be ashamed nor be put down for who we are. We are the past, present and future passing on many generations of different cultures and we should be proud of who we are. As Cesar Chavez once said: “Preservation of one’s own culture does not require contempt or disrespect for other cultures.”

Lyssa Marlyn Fuentes,16, is a junior at Live Oak High School. A member of the Youth Action Council in Morgan Hill, she enjoys playing sports, Aztec dancing, volunteering and being with her friends.