Open Letter from a “Fake” Latina

Dear students,

I dedicate this article to all of those who have told me I wasn’t Venezuelan or Dominican enough to consider myself a Latina. I dedicate this article to all of those who have heard: “so you’re fake *your nationality*” or “you’re not really *your nationality*” before in their lives. I’ve been there too.

Yes, it’s true I have never lived in a Spanish-speaking country. Yes, I “only” have an American passport. Yes, English comes easier to me than Spanish, given that I’ve only ever studied in English and lived in the U.S. for six years. No, that does not make me any less of a Latina.

“So you’re a fake Latina” and “you speak gringo Spanish” are some of the sentences that have been said to me on various occasions by my fellow Latino friends. I’ve learned to laugh it off or simply not reply, but the comments stay with me. While living in New York, I went to a school with a very small international community; being Hispanic made me feel like an outsider. I tried to be as American as possible, neglecting my Latin roots to fit in. I even wanted to change my name to Amy at one point. While living in Brazil, I have found so many people who are like me: we celebrate the same things, eat the same foods, and speak the same languages. By calling me gringa, they strip away the Venezuelan and Dominican roots I’m still learning to love and embrace.

I shouldn’t have to feel like I need to prove to anybody that we are part of the same culture. I shouldn’t have to list all of the Venezuelan foods I eat on Christmas Eve or all of the Dominican curse words I know to show that they are my nationalities. Cultures aren’t something you have to pass a test to take part in.

I didn’t write this article to make the people who have told me these things before feel ashamed. I know they were probably joking or were just innocently curious. Next time they do call me a fake Latina or a gringa, though, I won’t hesitate to send them the link to this article. (It’s much easier than having to repeat these 462 words to their faces, which would kill the conversation too.)

I wrote this article so people who feel the same way I do will, hopefully, feel understood and accepted. You shouldn’t feel like you are an impostor. Culture is something different for every person. Although you may share a nationality with someone else, your upbringing, stories, and your family’s practices may be entirely different from theirs. Being different doesn’t make you any less a part of your culture or nationality than you consider yourself to be.

Un fuerte abrazo,

A “Fake” Latina