This is the first of a SERIES! Yay! So stay tuned 😉
If you haven’t clicked on over to the “About Me” section of my blog, then you may have missed that I am half Dominican! My dad immigrated to the United States when he was only 18 and never looked back. I like to think through him I have a strong connection to the Dominican people and its beautiful culture. Growing up in a Dominican influenced household held a lot of different traditions compared to the average American household. So there were tons of things that I thought were “normal” but found out the hard way that they were NOT. On top of that, I realized I hadn’t done many of the actual normal things. For example:
- I never tried a s’more until I was well into my 20’s.
- Breakfast ALWAYS included rice and beans (Actually that was EVERY meal).
- You do NOT in fact vigorously hug and kiss both cheeks of a person you are meeting for the first time (They never spoke to me again).
- Loud salsa, merengue, and especially bachata music during all hours in the home.
- Evidently, not all weddings are wild multiple day occasions. (Still bummed about that one)
- Flip-flops were never called “flip-flops”; the term you are looking for is “chanclas”.
- I still have not tried french toast.
- Family is #1. You have no other priorities. (No, really. None.)
- Oregano is in everything and it IS everything.
- We can all cook. Very well. (At least in my family??)
- Coquito at EVERY Thanksgiving and Christmas gathering. (Will link a recipe for you to try this life-altering drink. If you’re of age that is!)
- Every family reunion turned into a massive dance party (Noticing a theme?).
- Pointing to literally everything with your chin.
- We have the ability to recognize another Dominican from 7,900 miles away. No joke. (AND we hug each other vigorously!)
- My dad still looks like he is 30…I won’t say how old he is, but it is WAY over 30. He hasn’t aged. Seriously concerned he is an alien. This is normal. Help.
You get the idea. We’re insane, love loud music, dancing, and being very over the top in the best way possible! We know how to have a good time. Growing up in this environment taught me to be a MAJOR extrovert and really embrace life passionately.
I grew up in Paterson, NJ in an amazingly awesome neighborhood. It is sadly rundown, and I wouldn’t advise going there now, but man. It was awesome. We had an adorable tiny house, where I, like Mr. Harry Potter himself, slept in a closet! (Don’t worry, it was a HUGE closet and I loved it!) I was born in 1993, (90’s baby, yeah!!!) so everyone was still friendly and helpful with no suspicions or stigmas attached. It was such a diverse place! So many different peoples, religions, and traditions. I could safely ride my bike throughout the entire neighborhood (and into a brick wall, a story for another time) with no fears of being snatched up or anything like that. I was lucky enough to live only a couple blocks away from two great buddies of mine (S/O to Samantha and Stephen! Love you both!) and we would do the dumbest things together! It was fabulous. Oh, how I wish I could raise my future children in that same environment! It was so peaceful, and simple. Safe and nurturing. Growing up there, I never noticed skin color or any other racial differences. People were people, and that was all that mattered.
One lesson my dad always taught me (by this I mean at least a minimum of twice a week) that a smile was the best greeting and to “always walk with your head held high”! Be proud of who you are and where you come from. I carry those words with me daily, and boy are they ever relevant today. No matter where you’re from, be PROUD! You are bringing something to this wonderful melting pot of a nation! You are bringing you and your super cool/ new traditions and culture! Always walk with your head held high and smile. You are amazing and I would so love to hear each and every one of your stories.
While all this is coming from the blissful memories of a 4 to 5 year old girl, the principle still remains: People are people. No one is lesser or greater, and the diversity in this nation is a beautiful sight to behold. I think more people need to remember that everyone has a story worth sharing and to be proud of their own stories. Those are a few lessons I learned growing up Dominican. We are a community. Everyone matters. When it comes down to it, we are all the same. Love people (hug them vigorously in you feel so led), and respect them. It’s what people will remember about you: if you love them, and respect them.
Hasta Luego friends,