As a child growing up in a multicultural home on a military base in the American South, I often felt that I never quite fit in with my Hispanic cultural heritage. Although my Puerto Rican mother was friends with a few Hispanic families and I had a handful of Hispanic friends myself, I often found myself questioning if I was in fact, Hispanic enough. It didn’t help that my non-Hispanic friends would often ask if I was “a real Hispanic” due to my inability to speak Spanish fluently and due to my father being a “gringo” (a non-Hispanic American white man). My thin build and my lighter complexion didn’t help either, as I did not draw to mind an imagine of a Puerto Rican that women like Jennifer Lopez had built for the general public. Because of this isolation from not fully fitting into one group or the other I often envied my cousins on my mother’s side who were raised in Puerto Rico, as they must have felt so sure of our shared cultural background, never doubting or questioning whether or not they belonged to it. I often envied my mother, who seemed to easily exist between her Puerto Rican background and the life we had built in North Carolina. They always seemed so sure of themselves.

This was a feeling that I carried into adulthood. It wasn’t until I started watching the videos of Instagram celebrity @LeJuanJames that my feelings of disconnect towards my heritage slowly began to change. LeJuan, whose videos often highlight cultural experiences shared among Hispanics, actually helped to highlight that while I was not raised in an overtly Hispanic community, my mother had still managed to create a sense of culture in our home, even if I was unaware of it growing up. I rarely had the chance to compare notes with other Hispanic children on their upbringing as the majority of my friends were non-Hispanic, but LeJuan gave me something to finally compare all of my mother’s parenting quirks to. Her parenting was influenced by our culture, and she found a way to pass it on to me. His videos allowed me to connect to my heritage in a way that I never had before, and for that I am grateful. While I still hold a lighter complexion, a thin build, and an apparent inability to perfect my Spanish, I can now confidently say that my culture is a part of me and now I know how connected and influenced by it I was all along.

So here are 5 @LeJuanJames videos and how they helped me reconnect to my Hispanic culture.

5. “When You’re Sick and Hispanic Parents Put Vick’s On You”

When you're Sick and Hispanic Parents put Vicks on You. #TeamLeJuan
A video posted by LeJuan James (@lejuanjames) on

<script async defer src="//platform.instagram.com/en_US/embeds.js"></script>

If there was ever an ailment that I suffered from in my life, the only cure for it was Vick’s...or at least that’s what my mother and grandmother made it seem like. Whether it was a stuffy nose or a broken heart, Vick’s was slathered on in large amounts to help you feel better, faster. Much like LeJuan’s video however, I used to complain about how much my mother would put on me and beg her not to because it was always so greasy. Although it’s only a small connection to my Boricua culture, seeing this video makes me feel that this was something so many other Hispanic children went through and somehow that makes me appreciate my mother and grandmother so much more.

4. “When Hispanic Parents Criticize Their Daughter’s Hair”

When Hispanic Parents criticize their Daughters Hair. #TeamLeJuan
A video posted by LeJuan James (@lejuanjames) on

<script async defer src="//platform.instagram.com/en_US/embeds.js"></script>

Growing up, my mother never let me out of the house unless my hair was perfect. Even if I was going out to play, she insisted on doing my hair. When I went to school my hair was often slicked back in a ponytail or a braid with a pretty bow on top, and when she let me wear it down to school she made sure it was brushed out perfectly, placing a headband on my head to keep it out of my face. Now that I’m an adult and in charge of my own hair, my mom quite often still fusses over the way it looks. Now that I embrace my natural curl, my mother asks me to tame it so I don’t look quite so wild. She’ll pull me aside and say, “Let me brush your hair!” slicking it back until it’s neatly up in a pretty bun, always stating “What if someone I knew saw you with your hair messy like this?? They’d think I don’t care about you!” My mother and I don’t battle over much, but when we do it’s quite often my hair. It isn't shocking that Hispanic mothers fuss over their daughter’s hair, as studies show that beauty is a large part of the Hispanic community. This video perfectly reflects our interactions whenever it comes to how I wear my hair out, and apparently so many other Hispanic mothers and daughters' discussions surrounding hair.

3. “Trying To Explain To Your Non-Hispanic Friend Why You Can’t Go Out"

Trying to explain to your Non-Hispanic Friend why you can't go out. #TeamLeJuan
A video posted by LeJuan James (@lejuanjames) on

<script async defer src="//platform.instagram.com/en_US/embeds.js"></script>

If you were raised in a Hispanic household, you know that legal age does not make you an adult, and that as long as you live in your parents' home you will follow every one of their rules. Many of my non-Hispanic friends in college were often baffled that I still asked for my mother’s permission to go out. My non-Hispanic father was also confused by this requirement to ask permission, as he believed that once a child turned 18 they were an adult and could not be told what to do. Growing up I assumed my mother was strangely strict compared to my friends’ parents, but the older I got the more I came to realize that this strictness came from a culture that emphasizes respect towards one’s elders and a deep sense of responsibility to one’s family, no matter one's age. When I saw LeJuan’s video, I understood that this was a struggle many Hispanic children faced as they finally came of age, and it made me feel a bit closer to my culture.

2. “When Hispanic People Talk With Their Hands”

When Hispanic People talk with their Hands. 👋🏼😂 #TeamLeJuan
A video posted by LeJuan James (@lejuanjames) on

<script async defer src="//platform.instagram.com/en_US/embeds.js"></script>

There have been many times in my life I have been told to sit on my hands while I speak due to wild gestures and accidental slaps while making a point. My mother and many on her side of the family also find themselves being told that their hands move quite often when they speak. After watching LeJuan’s video, I could only laugh, because it seems it’s something many Hispanic people have had to deal with. This could be due to an emphasis on emotional communication and connection in Hispanic culture, which is often conveyed through nonverbal cues such as hand gestures and physical touch. I may not be fluent in Spanish, but who needs to be when I’m already fluent in speaking with my hands?

1. “When Hispanic Mothers Lecture Their Daughters About Boyfriends”

When Hispanic Mothers lecture their Daughters about Boyfriends. #TeamLeJuan
A video posted by LeJuan James (@lejuanjames) on

<script async defer src="//platform.instagram.com/en_US/embeds.js"></script>

My mother gave me this speech quite often growing up with little variation, and it is still one I hear to this day at 24 years old. Thanks to LeJuan though, I now know that this is a speech many Hispanic mothers give their daughters when discussing boyfriends. For those who don’t understand, here is a rough translation of the video:

“I’m only going to say this once so listen to me well. It’s nice to be in love but this is important. Men nowadays only want one thing and they have experience. Be careful what you’re doing with this boy. He’ll ruin your life forever. Be careful what you’re doing with this fresh little boy! Don’t go crazy and make a decision you’re going to regret for the rest of your life. Do you understand? One moment you’re in love and saying I love you on the phone and the next thing you know….PFSSSHT!”

While I always thought my mother was just overprotective compared to the other mothers in the neighborhood, I now realize this speech came from a place of love and was built by a culture that dictates an over-protection of one’s daughters. To see that this speech is one that so many others have heard makes me feel connected to a shared experience I didn’t even know influenced the way I lived my life.

Thank you @LeJuanJames for creating these videos. They have allowed me to find my identity within the Hispanic community and know that even though my Spanish isn’t perfect and I don’t fit the stereotypical look of a Puerto Rican woman, my mother made sure to pass our Hispanic culture on in many small ways that mean so much to me. ¡Wepa!


*Bonus Video

“When You Run Out Of Dish Soap In A Hispanic Home”

When you run Out Of Dish Soap in a Hispanic Home. #TeamLeJuan
A video posted by LeJuan James (@lejuanjames) on

<script async defer src="//platform.instagram.com/en_US/embeds.js"></script>


This whole video makes me smile because it reminds me of my mother, aunt, and grandmother. Not having enough soap is never an excuse not to wash the dishes and you can be sure that in every bathroom of the house there’s a watery soap dispenser filled with bubbles that has just been shaken up. You can’t let it go to waste, right? Plus my mom will find any excuse to dance. Love you, Mom!