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Preserving my Dominican culture for generations | Opinion

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Every time I compliment my mother on her cooking, she reminds me that none of the typical Dominican dishes she made that day are difficult. Her main concern is that my future husband (apparently unable to fend for himself) will be permanently malnourished. I laugh it off and assure her that her husband will be fine, but in fact she is not indifferent to the inability to recreate Mami’s cooking. She worries that my future children’s lives will be markedly devoid of the Latin American spirit that characterizes my home.

Despite my mild guilt for not providing them with the rich culture that deeply shaped my own sense of self, I believe that my children’s upbringing is inevitably very different from mine. Growing up in a home run by Latino immigrant parents defined my childhood. Mami and Papi were learning how to navigate life in a new country just as I was about to step into this world. To this day, we have always worked things out together. We have shared both successes and setbacks.

In many ways my children’s lives will be easier than mine. They will certainly become more carefree. As a child who didn’t yet know the difference between a savings account and a checking account, I was often tasked with deciphering cryptic letters from Chase Bank that I could barely understand in English. In the end, all I had to do was translate the parts I understood and pray my parents didn’t suddenly go bankrupt because of an important detail I had missed.

For the most part, I didn’t mind being my parents’ personal interpreter at all. The same cannot be said for the rest of the trip. The frustration she felt when she sat down in front of a mountain of tax returns trying to fill out her first financial aid application and how little she felt when her parents couldn’t understand her 8th grade commencement speech. I still remember my disappointment. whole. More importantly, the pressure to make their parents’ sacrifices “worthy”—the pressure to always make them proud—is exhausting at times.

I will never be upset that my future children do not relate to these feelings, but I will admit that it is a package deal. No matter how much I try to create a microcosm of the Caribbean country my parents call home, just as Mami and Papi succeeded for my brothers and me, to perfectly recreate this atmosphere. I know it’s impossible.

I’m still many years away from becoming a parent, but I can confidently say that I feel like a failure if my children aren’t fluent in Spanish. There are myriad practical reasons to learn how to speak the language you are in, including automatically increasing your job opportunities. Plus, knowing Spanish can help you casually let someone know that you understood the entire conversation about me after five minutes of quiet listening, or speak to Spanish at Jefe’s just to witness an employee’s confusion. There are often comical moments such as switching and ordering.

But beyond these reasons, it means a lot to me that my future children will be Spanish native speakers. It breaks my heart to see you staring at me. I want you to understand all the stories of Mami and Papi and their quintessential Dominican proverbs and tropes, all in their glory. Listen to Bad Bunny and Romeo Santos and not only enjoy the rhythm, but truly understand the lyrics. To go to the Dominican Republic and feel a true connection with its people, culture and land.

My parents were forced to teach their children Spanish so they could communicate with us, but I have no choice. And even if my cooking skills aren’t as good as Mami’s, I’ll make sure my kids read and teach me the recipes.

Erica S. Familia ’25 is an editor at Crimson and lives in Adams House.