When I was growing up in the Bronx with parents from the Dominican Republic, my bedtime stories didn’t include Goodnight Moon or The Cat in the Hat, considered by some to be mandatory for the mainstream American-childhood experience. Instead, we sang Los Pollitos Dicen and Arroz con Leche.
Growing up, I didn’t know who Frank Sinatra was or that he had blue eyes; I never watched M.A.S.H., and I had no idea what cranberry sauce was or that it was a Thanksgiving Day staple.
Instead, I could sing – and dance – along with Johnny Ventura; could tell you the comings and goings on the telenovela Esmeralda; and would be the first in line for concon, the crunchy rice that forms at the bottom of the pot, or the cuerito, the crunchy skin on a roast pork.
As I grew older, I came to love The Police and Depeche Mode. And if I was ever deserted on an island, French fries and all seven seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer would be at the top of the list of things I’d take with me.
This theme of living in two cultures is visited again and again throughout this issue of USA TODAY’s Hispanic Living.
One article examines the idea of what it really means to be Hispanic. The article addresses stereotypes of how Latinos are supposed to look and explores biases that are sometimes attached to being dark skinned.
There is a first-person account from a writer on her struggle to choose between her Peruvian heritage and becoming a U.S. citizen.
We also look at the strides and successes of Latinos who have become players in every facet of American life, from education to business to entertainment.
Our cover story profiles the two Latino actors – Stephanie Beatriz and Melissa Fumero – in leading roles on Fox’s Brooklyn Nine Nine sitcom; they talk about the successes and the power of having more Latinas on TV.
In a salute to the evolution of the lowrider car culture, we introduce Latinas who have embraced the once all-male community and are proud to be behind the wheels of their hydraulic-hopping autos.
Continue turning pages and you will find great stories on travel, food, fashion and beauty.
You wll see throughout the pages that it is possible, not just to exist, but to thrive with your feet in both cultures.
As for me, I’m sharing both of my cultures with my son. We are reading Goodnight Moon and The Cat in the Hat. Only we read them as Buenas Noches, Luna y El Gato en el Sombrero.
I am guest editor in this year’s issue of Hispanic Living. Pick up a copy on your newstands this month.