As the daughter of a mother born and raised in Puerto Rico and an American father, and as one half of a bicultural marriage, it’s always been important to me to help my kids embrace their mixed heritage. My own parents never placed any emphasis on the fact that they were from different cultures, and I loved and embraced my dual heritage. I remember hearing the salsa and merengue around the house as my mom did her regular Friday cleaning, and I recall picking up the Spanish language as if it were a contagious tune from a record player.
I’ve been married to my Dominican-born husband for ten years now. He is many shades darker than I am. And while that was a never a concern to me, it was for both my parents. I couldn’t imagine why, because I didn’t see my father and my mother as any different from each other. But maybe that was just me being naive. I recall them saying things like, “Your kids are going to question why your hair is different from theirs,” or, “People are going to look at you differently.”
I didn’t care then nor do I care now, and I continue to walk with pride next to my two beautiful boys. Instead of making them fear that people will see them as “different,” I teach my children, every day, to embrace their mixed heritage. We don’t talk about how we look, or our DNA. But I help them celebrate who we are by learning about our rich, mixed culture.
Read Related: 10 Ways to Educate Kids About Hispanic Heritage Month
PLENTY OF DISCUSSIONS
My children and I discuss our heritage often. It isn’t something we hide, but on the other hand, you don’t need to drill kids with their cultural identity. Instead, just teach them in a natural way to be proud of who they are. My boys often ask where their Nana is, as she travels back and forth to Puerto Rico. We locate where she is on a map, I bring out pictures of our family, and the island. My children are able to see photos of the culture and the land. We’ve also visited Puerto Rico as a family, and we’ve traveled to different towns and identified how people live off the land and work hard, just like us. Everything comes out in conversation and stories, only when they express curiosity.
HISTORY AND LITERATURE
Many times my son will come home and share his history or geography lessons at school. Whatever country, culture, or heritage he’s learned about and that seems to pique his curiosity, we run with and learn more about. Through this practice, he’s learned not just about Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, but also about cultures all over the world.
My boys are both visual learners, but they also love to read. So we seek out children’s books and literature that have pictures along with a story. Scholastics.com has many wonderful heritage resources on its website, and there is a wealth of learning materials all over the Internet, to help make connections between the classroom and home.
These are just some of very simple ways to help your kids embrace their mixed heritage. Let’s make our rich, blended heritage and culture a source of pride for our children—and not a label!