Stranger: Where are you from?
Me: Well, I’m originally from Argentina, raised in Puerto Rico, and lived in the States for over five years.
Stranger: Oh wow, so where’s home for you?
Me: Honestly, I don’t know.
Stranger: Oh, okay…
One morning my dad said he wanted me to meet someone and I was very excited about it. When I asked who I was meeting, my dad simply said she was an important person in his life. By that time, my dad had been a widower for about four years and I was five years old. As expected, I didn’t think much of it and to be quite honest, I was just thrilled to meet people as I was more of an extrovert back then. That same night, my dad was setting up the computer and one of those old-school video chat cameras, you know, the ones that were the size of an egg. I remember walking into my grandma’s room and watching tv with her as my dad continued setting up the computer. Shortly after, my dad came into the room and picked me up to go “meet” his special friend. To my surprise, his lady friend lived in another country and my way to meet her was through a camera. After that, I don’t remember much, but I do remember that was the first time I heard someone speaking Spanish with a different accent and that truly struck me.
Back then, I didn’t know anything about other cultures or foreign people and how far other countries were from Argentina. That was soon to change, as I shortly after moved to Puerto Rico where my dad’s wife lived back then. I’m not going to say adapting was a piece of cake, because after all, I hated the food over there, kids made fun of my accent, and I constantly found myself saying words others either thought were not appropriate or they didn’t understand. But at the end of the day, I started to love the food, my accent faded, and I figured out what words I wasn’t supposed to use. Moving at such a young age taught me how to adapt quickly, embrace different cultures, be open-minded, and value different viewpoints.
On the other hand, I always felt like I didn’t belong, even after adapting to the culture and “sounding” like one of them. At first, it wasn’t apparent because I was just a kid, but once I became a teenager, something didn’t feel quite right. Not knowing who to talk to, I decided to speak to my dad. He told me sometimes he felt the same way but didn’t give me any hopeful advice that made me feel better about how I felt regarding my cultural identity. The fact that I only visited Argentina once in ten years didn’t help, as I couldn’t see if maybe I belonged there. Once I actually went back as an adult, I quickly figured out I wasn’t “from there” either and I felt lost…okay, maybe I still feel a little lost.
Now I live in Florida and while I feel happy here, I still feel like I don’t belong. To my relief though, I am sure there’s plenty of people that must feel like me, as Florida is a melting pot. So many cultures, so many people, so many languages, and so much diversity. However, at the end of the day, this does not matter because the question of where home is remains unanswered. Sometimes, I feel fortunate and other times, I feel like my dad should’ve just stayed in Argentina. But let’s be real, I wouldn’t even be who I am today if I stayed my whole life in Argentina.
So, to answer the stranger’s question again and more elaborately…I am from nowhere and everywhere. While I know where I was born and how I share some values that my dad taught me from an early age, I also know I have some values that come from the Puerto Rican culture, and since I’ve only been to college in the United States, I tend to analyze things with more of an American approach. I can’t pretend I’m more of one culture or the other because it just doesn’t work that way. You are you, you are not a country, you are not a culture. While it’s nice to “belong” somewhere, it is even better to be able to go anywhere and still remain true to yourself regardless of the cultural differences and decide where home is. Ultimately, as cliché, as it may sound, home is wherever I want it to be, wherever my family is at, wherever my passions are being developed.