On my cultural pride and appropriation

It’s ColOmbia with an O. 

I’ve been reading a book about Colombian history, sort of. I’ve been reading a book about a colombian journalist’s relationship with Colombia.

She’s a bit older than I am and was there longer, (I, myself, was only there for a month after I was born, then only visited ocassionally)  so she experienced more of it. But the disconnect with the country for not knowing it’s history or having heavily experienced its culture was there. I realized that with my own lack of knowledge about my country of birth, despite all the love and reverence I felt for it, I had not felt the respect that the land and its people so meritfully deserved.

Likewise, Colombia welcomed me with open arms but I still needed to own its respect . I guess maybe, if I’m honest, I’m like that too. 

It was in living that, and understanding, that I realized what it could be like to appropriate a country despite one being from there. In feeling I had a right to all its culture, I failed to fully comprehend the privileges I had been born to and how they were the fruit of years of violence, rebellion, and hope. 

However, the love was, has been, and is still there. I am citizen of the world and multicultural latinx of European descent, but I am Colombian. 

Me, in Bogotá in 2013, loving paradise. 

I have met my people and for the most part, we are welcoming and kind, we are warm and friendly, sassy in humor, quick to entertain . ..we are flawed, like every other, but mostly, Colombia is magnificent . 

And so in being multicultural, I am even more fascinated to learn about more cultures, to fully respect them and acknowledge them, to listen to my people and know who they are. Only respecting the lines that have been drawn for me. Growing up in a Dominican school with many afro latinxs does not make me knowledgeable enough on their experience to ever speak over or for them. 

Being born in Colombia doesn’t give me the insight that having been raised there would anymore than spending four years in france gives me the insight of someone who grew up here. 

In reality, loving Colombia means loving all of Latin America. We come from and are everywhere. Here in france, I already know where the Colombians and other latinxs hang out. Because of my super Mexicanized accent, I of course, lose cred immedieately. I have to earn certain points. That’s ok. Just a little disadvantage of the privileged multicultural lifestyle I was born, raised, and live in. 

I understand better the love behind knowing history, and how we owe ourselves the minimum of knowing where we come from, to better respect not only our own roots, but that of others. 

Where are your parents and grandparents from?

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2 thoughts on “On my cultural pride and appropriation

  1. Hi Maelle,
    I was super happy to read something like this because I too share the feelings of “Ni de aqui, Ni de allá”….it sometimes feel as if I’ve spent ny life lying to myself about who I am. For many years, I identified as Black Latina because I thought my birth father was a Black Dominican, only to find out when I was 25 that my father is in fact, French Dominican. That made me ponder the years I had spent defending and honoring my African past, and for a while, I was angry at the world. I felt fake, like I had lied and been lied to about what I love, how I act, and who I am. Although my parents white skin doesnt exclude the blood of Mother Africa entirely, I felt disconnected to it. It took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that I also had a distinct European heritage. I hated it. How could I identify with the oppressed, fight for an equality particularly ours, when I too had the blood of the colonizers, the rapists, murderers, the thieves in my blood? I cried a lot after finding out who my real father was. Did I have a right to claim Black blood, Black hair, Black tastes? Despite the color of my skin, I was the only one who considered myself Black. The surrounding society looked at me as White, my parents Identified as White, and my fellow Blacks (of both American and Latinx origin) never viewed me as Black. I was mixed mestiza at best. How could I feel something so deeply in my heart and soul that didnt exist for anyone else? I’m still debating that. I know that there is the blood of slaves,kings, conquerers,farmers,warriors and liberators in me, and yet, in order to silence the primordial screams of my ancestors, I keep the thoughts at bay. As I comb my kinky hair while gazing at my light brown skin in the mirror, I only seldom now stop to ask myself the question of who I am…because now and only now, when I have a baby of mixed races and cultures growing in my belly do I realize that it truly doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of themes. And when i say the grand scheme, I mean the eons of deep time, the tiny pinpoint of existence that we occupy in the grand neural network of the universe. Perhaps, when my daughter begins to pull on her curly hair and question the color of her skin we can revisit the issue. For now, I take comfort in acknowledging Africa, Europe,and the Carribean without judgement, without shame.

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    1. Lucy thanks so much for sharing. This was so enriching and resonated so much. I’m in a state of acknowledging the pain to see where it takes me while also understanding it doesn’t matter. Riding the wave and seeing what happens.

      Like

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