In the vibrant palette of American multiculturalism, my experience stands as a testament to the beauty of diversity, the profoundness of heritage, and the challenges and joys of dancing between two distinct worlds.
Born in the U.S. to Colombian parents, I’ve been privileged to grow up indulging in the sights, sounds and flavors of Colombian culture, all while claiming an American identity. The intersection of my heritages has crafted a blend of traditions, languages and perspectives shaping my outlook of the world.
An early childhood memory begins with noisy elementary students conquering the school’s cafeteria. My mother would pack me arroz con frijoles, a dish my family and I still eat at least twice a week. The giggling of my classmates, while they ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, made me first question what my 7-year-old mind had always known.
Venturing through school, extracurriculars and any group setting, led to overwhelming realizations. I had a different upbringing than people around me, but what I had still yet to understand and appreciate was that everyone else did too.
The daily exposure to American values, education and customs led me to awkwardly feeling lost in two spaces.
I’d travel to Colombia and instantly feel gaps in my understanding. I mispronounced Spanish words, subconsciously proclaiming English as my native tongue, and was misinformed on the nation’s history, current disputes and pop culture.
I’m a product of my family’s values but also of my own. I’m currently still discovering parts of my cultural identity. It’s a lifelong development and learning to appreciate these questions rather than shame them changes the interpretation we have of ourselves.
I’ve learned to break this pattern, and I’m learning to embrace both my Colombian and American values.
There is such intricate beauty in difference because conforming to solely a single identity or value does not enrich our minds. We learn and develop new ideas and concepts from what is unfamiliar.
As editor for El Caimán, I cannot claim I know everything there is to my culture and the Spanish language, but I’ve learned to appreciate the unknown. I’m dancing between two worlds, but everyday, I am learning from two perspectives.
I can safely say I’ll never stop learning.
Nicole Beltrán is the El Caimán editor for The Alligator.
Nicole Beltran is a second-year journalism and economics major, and she's the caimán desk editor this semester. In her free time, she enjoys reading, journaling, and watching musicals.