Written By Ashley C Neyra
When someone asked me where I was from, I always said the same long statement. “My mom and dad are from Peru, but I was born here in MD.” I wasn’t the first person who introduced themselves by a whole statement, nor would I be the last.
Being a child of immigrant parents shaped me to be the person I am. Not just because of the cultures they brought with them and implied on me, but also the experiences that the community of first-generation children share. It is something we all know too well and would talk about during lunchtime in middle school as we ate our aji de gallina and pupusas our parents had packed for us that morning.
When I was six, I had a full-time job. I liked to call myself an official translator for my family. I would say this influenced my love for reading absolutely everything. When my parents would get mail, they would pull me over from playing with Barbies and ask what it was saying. I would translate for them slowly but surely trying to find all the correct words to get the correct translation. This wasn’t just for mail but also talking to other people. My mom sometimes got shy because of her strong accent, so she sent me to ask questions.
One of the most prominent memories I have was watching Caso Cerrado con Ana Maria Polo with my mom. Every day like clockwork, my mom would turn on the TV to Telemundo and sit on the couch. Every time something in the show was shocking, I would always hear her big gasp from wherever I was in the house. The next day at school we would discuss the show we pretended that we weren’t watching because it was “weird”. We would mock Ana Maria Polo saying “ CASO CERRADO! *hits Hamer on the table*” every time we would finish a disagreement at the school lunch table.
How could I forget the music! Thanks to my parents having day and night taste in music I got to experience every corner of the music aspect. With my dad, he introduced me to what I like to call the Peruvian bangers. Things like La Marinera, Saya, Huayno, and Afro-Peruvian. We would listen to them as I watched my dad cook in the mornings during my summer days.
With my mom, I remember hearing her blasting Peruvian cumbia and Salsa before I even got a chance to step in the car as she picked me up from school. When I was younger I would get annoyed from her playing them all the time. In the morning when my mom would stay home from work, I would wake up to the sounds of boleros and creole. I remember rolling my eyes at the songs before but now I would be a liar if I said I didn’t listen to them on my own, it tends to call to my heart.
My dad worked long hours but, the time we would spend together I would be attached to him by the hip. My dad was very dedicated to teaching me as much as he could about my Peruvian roots through music, dance, and little history lessons since I loved asking questions from a young age and he loved answering them. My dad and I had an addiction to National Geographic documentaries. So on late nights, my father and I would sit on the couch, and I swear we watched every single documentary about Peru, the Incas, and the Maya/ Aztec Civilization just to show me a little more about my roots.
I didn’t get to experience my culture the way my parents did but my parents did everything in their power to bring Peru to me. Looking back these are things several first-generation children have experienced. It was something that we all shared in common and something that will forever unite us.