With a post title like that, I bet your wondering where I’m going with this. The first time I ever heard the term “Coconut” was watching the Mindy Project. The main character Mindy explains the struggle defining her racial identity, she describes herself as a “coconut”; white on the inside brown on the outside. Although her origin is Indian Mindy is American born & grew up pretty much like everyone else (hamburgers & french fries). Naturally, Mindy & I would be best friends, not only is she funny but also the fact that I totally can relate to her dilemma. Usually checking off the “other” box on surveys there had been plenty of situations in my upbringing where I wasn’t either White enough or Spanish enough.
My father is second generation Queens Italian, pretty much the only word of Italian he speaks is “Mangiare!” and my mother born in Ecuador moved to the U.S. around the age of 5. Although Spanish is Madre’s first language, she didn’t pass it down to us growing up. Tiffany (sister) and I are a perfect combination of the two them, but between the both of us we don’t look like sisters. Her skin is fairer, hair & eyes darker, & she is shorter in height. I, on the other hand, have slightly darker skin, light eyes & lighter hair, & for some reason tower at 5’7 over all my relatives. Our parents embraced both cultures introducing us to all parts of where our roots come from. The house was full of Billy Joel & Novellas. We grew up Mariana sauce, Sofrito loving American born ladies. Living in New York our differences in appearance were standard, let’s face it NYC is a hub for people from all over the world, but when we moved to the mountains of Pennsylvania is where I realized that we were an unusual breed.
I remember the first day of school sitting at a lunch table as the new kid being asked questions like “Are you from New York? Are you Puerto Rican? At that time the only representation of a Latina was Jenny from the block. Eventually, I had to explain to my new peers that just because someone is Latin doesn’t mean that we all come from Puerto Rico ( Love me some pastillas though). Most people hadn’t seen a South American let alone could point where Ecuador is located on a map. So, I did what any other teenage girl would do; I tried to “fit in.” Trading in Baby Phat Jeans for Abercrombie & Fitch & popped Ralph Lauren polo collars. No matter how much bleach I applied in my hair or how much emphasis I put that I am Italian too! I was still a brown girl in a white world & paid the price for it. Most of my memories attending high school were complete torture. Always getting picked on for my everlasting tan, hips that didn’t lie, & ethnic features. Thankfully my generation was only the beginning of social media which left me to experience the early days of cyberbullying. Messages flooded accounts as a reminder that I did not belong or suggestions to just kill myself for how I looked. If that wasn’t bad enough the dating department was pretty bleak. It was almost like guys my age were afraid to even mention having an interest in the “Spanish girl.” I couldn’t wait to graduate, once 2008 hit I packed my bags & moved back to the city ASAP.
Let me tell you how much of a rude awakening I had when I returned to the big apple. Yes, there are tons of people running the streets that look like me & I don’t feel so “different.” I was just like any other New Yorker perfectly blended. There is a sense of pride in being a mix of two origins. I owned being Italian as much as being Spanish, but there was no denying that all those years growing up in woods had rubbed off a lot more than I thought. When it came to relating to other Spanish girls, they went over my head. Since knowing only English, I couldn’t keep up in a crowd engaged in spicey conversation. My reaction out of fear would be to nod my head in response having NO clue what they said. Sometimes as a cover I would play up my Italian side, but when faced with an actual Italian princess from Long Island there was nothing to say except I like to eat cannolis & drink red wine (#FACT).
Love Is Universal
After a few years of total self-consciousness, there came a realization that I didn’t have to choose either Ecuadorian, Italian, or American. I am all three & there is no pressure to identify with either because I am entirely ME. In travelling & knowing Christ taught me that God makes all of us in HIS image making his Love universal. If you are black, red, yellow or blue, from outer space & worry about how others see you. The best truth I can give is that not everyone understands what loving thy neighbour is but that’s just fine. Jesus loves you exactly the way he created you. Now, when asked how do I identify myself? My answer is simple, I am a child of the most magnificent creator.
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God because God is love. – 1 John 4:7-8
Creating Agape Soaps International to support missions
Next Mission in the works: Nicaragua (Kings Castle)
Reading the book of Timothy
Trying to run more than 3 miles a day without dying!
Photo Locations: Lake Wallenpaupack & Cocoon Coffee House
Have a story to share? We would love to hear from you! Please email firstname.lastname@example.org