Our Proud Heritage
"As Latino parents, we know firsthand the discrimination our children will face."
By Rosemary Barbera, Ph.D.
Eduardo and I met when we were both involved in human rights work in his native Chile. As we became closer and realized we would marry, we discussed having children. We knew we wanted kids, but were not sure we needed to be "biological" parents.
So, in October 2006, we became the preadoptive foster parents of a three-month-old boy, whom we named Carlos. In July 2007, we adopted Carlos, and, one week later, an 18-month-old baby girl, Mariana, came to us through foster care, as well. (We are currently in the process of adopting her.)
Both Carlos and Mariana are of Puerto Rican descent—and as bicultural, bilingual parents, Eduardo and I are committed to raising them to be proud of their history and culture. In our home, we speak almost exclusively in Spanish, so our children will grow up knowing at least two languages. We read and sing to them in Spanish. (I sometimes try to find the Spanish versions of songs they sing in English at day care.) And, as a family, we turn the music up loud, get silly, and dance around the house, changing partners. Carlos and Mariana love music, and they make up their own songs—although we’re never quite sure in which language they’re singing!
We expose our children to Latino música, danza, and cultural traditions outside our home, as well. So often, a culture expresses its pain, joy, expectations, and dreams through music and dance, and this is something we want our children to understand. Although both are still young, Carlos and Mariana have attended cultural events near our home, and have heard the beautiful musical forms that emanate from Latin America. They’ve also eaten authentic Latin-American foods, both at home and in restaurants; and they have met our Puerto Rican friends.
As they grow, we hope to send our children to a bilingual school, where they can further develop their language skills; to enroll them in summer camp at a local Puerto Rican arts organization, where they will continue to learn about music and dance; and to travel together to Latin America, so they can experience their culture firsthand. I help run a Colonia Urbana (summer camp) for poor children in Chile, and we hope that our children will one day participate in this project, as well.
But mostly, we want to instill in Carlos and Mariana a pride in who they are, and a connection to their roots. As they grow up in a society that doesn’t always respect their heritage—and where stereotypes of Latinos being "lazy" or "dangerous" run rampant—we want our children to have a positive sense of self. By giving them a true understanding of the rich history, culture, and language of Latin America, we hope to fortify them against the discrimination they will inevitably face.
Rosemary Barbera, Ph.D., lives with her family in Philadelphia. She is an assistant professor of social work at Monmouth University.
These books can help kids take pride in their birth culture. Add your family’s favorites at adoptivefamilies.com/transracial.
Colombia: A Question and Answer Book, by Kremena Spengler (Fact Finders). Learn basic facts about the country and culture.
My Name Is Gabito: The Life of Gabriel Garcia Márquez, by Monica Brown (Rising Moon). A bilingual picture book about the noted Colombian author.
Guatemala ABCs, by Marcie Aboff (Picture Window). A book about the people and places of Guatemala.
Rain Player, by David Wisniewski (Clarion). A story that combines Mayan history and legend.
Colors of Mexico, by Lynn Ainsworth Olawsky (first Avenue Editions). Mexico’s history, culture, and landscape is depicted through colors.
Look What Came from Mexico, by Miles Harvey (Franklin Watts). Kids learn about the food, inventions, music, art, and animals native to Mexico.
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