Born and having spent early childhood in Dominican Republic my life has been defined by the many experiences and trips back. The United States has become my home for over twenty years, now raising two children of my own defining their cultural identity has become a task of everyday life.
On naming: When choosing a name my only rule was that it would work in both languages. I wanted my parents and extended family to be able to pronounce their names. Unlike me many of my friends themselves don’t have traditional Spanish names nor do their kids. There are many names that work well in both languages, in the end it’s a matter of choice.
On speaking the language: Ninety percent of the time I speak Spanish with my kids, and their dad about fifty percent. Nowadays my son who is ten tends to lean towards the English language. Not to sound like a teacher but correcting the pronunciation and his conjugations is a daily norm. As oppose to English, in the Spanish language every noun is considered to be either masculine or feminine. For example “la sopa” equates to soup, “el sopa” is incorrect. I find it important that my kids grow up to be bilingual; it’s one of the biggest gifts that one can give their children. It’s a job of its own but later on in life they will be thankful.
On food: Being at the center of the American melting pot you can rest assured that New York is a state in which food for almost all Latin American countries is accessible. Growing up my dinner consisted of typical Dominican cuisine (rice, beans, beef stew, roast chicken, lamb stew, sancocho, pastelon, empanadas etc.). Still to this day finding the ingredients for such food is not difficult. During my childhood food shopping consisted of weekly trips to the Spanish supermarket. My mom was a bit creative and enjoyed cooking nontraditional food from time to time, devilled eggs, gnocchi, and chicken francese. Needless to say, today I find myself cooking similar things, although with a bit more variation since I too love being creative in the kitchen.
The great part of calling two places home is that you learn to appreciate the many aspects of cultures. Depending on the type of person you are, different people have different beliefs about their identity. Although at times you may feel like you never quite fit in, after some time you get used to certain aspects of life and norms. To me one of my greatest satisfactions in life will be that my kids will also have a piece of me as they walk through life.