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Wednesday, May 12, 2021

International

Hispanic Heritage Month brings students back to their roots


Some cultural items from Colombia that Puello celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month with. | Courtesy of Kellin Puello

Some cultural items from Colombia that Puello celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month with. | Courtesy of Kellin Puello

Many Houston events may have cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, but Hispanic Heritage Month is a celebration by heart. 

For some students, the month long period of Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 is a time to show pride over their culture.

“I think it’s a way to remind us how important our background is and the great contributions we have done not only in our countries, but here in America,” said public relations graduate student Kellin Puello.

Puello, who arrived in Houston from Cartagena, Colombia, last year, describes her culture as warm and affectionate, which sometimes can be misunderstood, she said.

“We show affection, but it doesn’t mean that you have any romantic intentions with that person, it’s just a way to express friendship,” Puello said.

Puello holding a Colombian flag. | Courtesy of Kellin Puello

Puello holding a Colombian flag. | Courtesy of Kellin Puello

Puello said in Colombia, it is common to greet with a kiss on the cheek or even a hug.

One tradition Puello practices at home is going outside and running on the streets with luggage on the night of New Year, which is supposed to bring good luck and fortune, she said.

When homesick, it’s the food that is missed the most, Puello said.

“It’s funny because when I’m in Colombia, I don’t usually eat Colombian food, but this quarantine has made me crave for Colombian food,” Puello said.

Right next to Colombia is neighboring country Venezuela, where public relations junior Mariana Cordero was born. She came from Caracas 10 years ago and still remembers her experiences with cultural shock. 

“I feel like the most shocking thing for me was to go to class and having to stand a certain appropriate distance from my classmates, or even playing sports, people wouldn’t be cohesive,” Cordero said. “There’s like this elephant in the room where it’s like you have to know people don’t like to be close to each other.”

Coming from Venezuela at such a young age, people wouldn’t understand why she was so touchy, Cordero said, since during elementary school, she hadn’t adapted to the American culture.

Cordero in front of a Venezuelan flag. | Courtesy of Mariana Cordero

Cordero in front of a Venezuelan flag. | Courtesy of Mariana Cordero

Despite living in the states for many years, Cordero said she hasn’t lost her cultural identity because her parents fostered a family-oriented, Spanish-speaking environment at home, where they regularly eat traditional food and watch soccer together.

“I definitely feel as Venezuelan as American; I have both since I lived half of my life here,” Cordero said.

An identity crisis can happen in environments where a person’s roots are in one country, but they’re based in another, like marketing junior Maria Rodriguez who tells the story of how being a first generation American can cause confusion on her identity.

Rodriguez’s parents, who came from León, Mexico, created a patriotic, Spanish-speaking environment and taught her and her sister their values and traditions, she said.

But when she visits her family in Mexico, Rodriguez feels different.

A Venezuelan ornament. | Courtesy of Mariana Cordero

A Venezuelan ornament. | Courtesy of Mariana Cordero

“They call us ‘Americans,’ and I do speak Spanish fluently, but there’s definitely a cultural difference; it’s very strong, like how over there the values are different than from here,” Rodriguez said.

Growing up in America, Rodriguez learned English at school, which created a barrier with her parents once she noticed she had more control over this language, she said.

“I would want to come home and I would want to speak English to my parents, and my dad was like ‘no, I don’t understand what you’re saying, speak it in Spanish,’” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez said she feels proud of her Mexican heritage and maintains a strong connection with her roots.

“I feel like ever since I was young, I was always tied to that, it’s my other half,” Rodriguez said. “And if I lose that, it would be like losing my identity.”

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