Latinaish: Blogger Tracy López Chats About Her Bilingual and Bicultural Life and Adopted Culture
Each individual cultivates a cultural identity from their experiences, observations, passions, familial history and heritage. And while that identity may be predetermined for some, others choose a different path. Tracy López, creator of Latinaish.com, for instance, opted to earn her own sense of cultural identity.
Beyond the posts regarding American culture, the Spanish language and bicultural/bilingual life that's featured on her blog, López has contributed to magazines SerPadres, Café Magazine SpanglishBaby, Fox News Latino, Mamiverse, Voxxi and latinamom.meas a freelance writer. She's also done translation work for Plaza Familia and is a fiction writer.
Presently, she's working on a young adult novel about a Salvadoran-American teen, stating that Salvadoran-Americans "aren't well-represented in fiction aside from stories about immigrants and gang members."
Born and raised amid the normality of an Anglo two-parent, middle class household in a Maryland suburb, López was drawn to the lures of travel, language and culture at a young age. Inspired by a great uncle who toted his coin collection with him as he crossed continental borders, López began studying Spanish in seventh grade, familiarizing herself with the literature, the music and the language.
"I fell in love with the language and culture instantly. I found myself reading my textbook for fun and seeking out opportunities to use the limited Spanish I had learned," López told Latin Post. "I bought a CD by La Mafia and would read the insert with the lyrics while I listened. I still love 'Yo Soy Ese Romantico.'
"That tendency to seek out opportunities to use my Spanish is how I met my husband. I worked in the music department of a now defunct electronics store chain. He was browsing the Spanish-language music section so I approached him and asked in Spanish if he needed any help. He ended up not even buying anything, but he did ask for my phone number."
López now shares a bicultural and bilingual household with her Salvadoran husband, her two son (ages 16 and 12) and their dog, Chico. She's encouraged her children to speak Spanish in the home since they were young. The process was made easier by the presence of her suegra (mother-in-law), who lived with them for them for 10 years and had a skill for pushing the boys out of their monolingual habits.
"Like most bilingual families in the United States, we struggle with the kids preferring English, and we fall into bad habits," López said. "Some days we make more of an effort to speak Spanish, and other days I go to bed at night feeling like a failure for having spoken to them in only English. If I had to declare an official language for the López family household, it would be Spanglish -- that's what we usually end up speaking."
Her immersion into Latino culture also helped to cement her love for Latin music, literature and Salvadoran folk art. The work of Fernando Llort and paintings by Edmundo Otoniel, which depict daily life in El Salvador and often includes street dogs "are dear to [her] heart so that always makes [her] smile."
Sandra Cisneros, Belinda Acosta, Sandra Benítez, Junot Díaz, Esmeralda Santiago and Luis Alberto Urrea are just a few of her favorite authors. And while she much prefers documentaries over movies, some of her favorite screen performers are Desi Arnaz, Pedro Infante, Jaime Camil, Eugenio Derbez, America Ferrera and Diego Luna.
Music, however, is where you're likely to find the "highest number of famous Latinos in [her] life." López enjoys Shakira, Juanes, Calle 13, cumbia, regional Mexican music and Espinoza Paz. López explained that Spanish-language music helped to make her more proficient in the language, and her tendency to play these songs over and over again was beneficial because "repetition is really good for fluency. It's like flashcards but more fun."
Beyond language, being married to her husband Carlos and being drawn into the Latino community has offered her a new perspective on "white privilege, racism, discrimination, xenophobia and how those things unfortunately play into so much of what happens in this world."
While López happily immersed herself in Latino culture, some others "perceive those who identify with cultures they weren't born into in a myriad of ways." In one case, a white motorcyclist, a complete stranger, told her that she was a traitor because of her mixed-race family. But Salvadorans have told her that she's more Salvadoran than they are because she can make pupusas. According to López, the Latino community has been warm and welcoming, and it's usually white people who find her odd, unless they are also open-minded.
"There are a lot of struggles in the Latino community, but I think one of the most heartbreaking [things] is that so many have had to try to find a better future far from home, especially for a culture that is so family-oriented. And then for some of those who come to the United States, who build a family, to have that family ripped apart all over again due to a lack of papers, it's tragic," López said.