I Say I’m Dominican, but My Latinx Family Thinks Otherwise

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A report by Celia Hernández for PopSugar.

Ever since I could remember, whenever anyone asked me where I was from I would say “I’m Dominican.” It’s where my parents are from and the nationality that I grew up knowing my entire life, but all of that was put into question during the Summer of 2011.

I felt so confused. I had identified my entire life as being Dominican and to hear my own family say I wasn’t threw me for a loop.

I was in Dominican Republic visiting my mom’s family when we started having a conversation about what we identify as. Everyone said they identified as Dominican and when I said I did too, the crowd went silent for a moment and then started laughing. “What’s so funny?” I said, and they told me it was the fact that I said I was Dominican when I’m not. “What do you mean?” I asked. Their answer: I was born in the United States, so that makes me American, not Dominican. I was confused, but no more than when I told my parents what happened, and they agreed with my aunts and cousins. They also thought I should tell people I’m American, not Dominican if questioned about my identity. I felt so confused. I had identified my entire life as being Dominican, and to hear my own family say I wasn’t threw me for a loop.

In my experience, in the US, when you look a certain way and people ask where you’re from, they’re not looking for you to simply say “I’m American.” It always felt weird answering that way, because that would without a doubt bring up the follow-up question, “But, where is your family from?” If I’m going to have to explain that my family is Dominican and I was born and raised in New York City, why go through so much trouble to end back at the same thing. “I’m Dominican” — it’s just simpler

Yes, I am an American because I am a citizen of the United States, but my heart is where my parents and extended family are from. My heart is Dominican. My family’s background played a role in the way I was raised and the person I am today.

It’s already hard enough when we have society and its president labeling people based on what they look like. Why should I have to label myself too because of where I was born? Why can’t it be OK to just be me and continue to identify however I want to, the way I feel most comfortable identifying myself? I don’t care what anyone thinks: I feel a connection with my heritage that goes beyond my place of birth. I’m Dominican through and through.

2 thoughts on “I Say I’m Dominican, but My Latinx Family Thinks Otherwise

  1. Well…there is how we identify ourselves and then there is how others identify us. Two very separate things. You can identify yourself any way you like but you don’t get a whole lot of say about how others identify you. You identify yourself as Dominican, your family identifies you as American, The Orange Jackass probably wouldn’t care enough to do more than decide you are “brown person” because he’s a racist toad.

    By your own logic though, I could identify myself as Scot-Irish, Belgian, Polish and Czech and you would probably look at me funny because saying “I’m American” would be so much easier, right? Why not say you are Dominican-American? Saying you are Dominican sounds like you are ashamed you were born in America and would rather have been born in Dominica. Not saying you are, but that is kind of how it sounds.


  2. Your experience is very American. We identify by heritage. In the old county they identify by geography—place of birth. Don’t feel bad you are what you feel. Your identity is yours to determine.

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