The Vocal Point

Que es lo que tu trabajas?

In honor of Hispanic Heritage month, I figured I’d talk a bit about defining success in the Hispanic culture. My family is from the Dominican Republic and I am first generation American. What does that mean for me? Well, I can easily name 5 things:

1. Maintaining my Dominican culture while also assimilating to American culture

2. Keeping the Spanish language alive which means also teaching it to my children

3. Fostering Dominican traditions like making Habichuelas con Dulce (Sweet Beans) during Semana Santa (Holy Week)

4. Learning how to cook to my mother or grandmother’s standards (if you come from a traditional Dominican family, you KNOW how important this is)

5. Being successful because your parents sacrificed everything including coming to a country where they did not know the language or culture to give you an opportunity to be something great.

Talk about pressure.

Growing up as first gen American, the importance of education and being “successful” was instilled in me at a very young age. But often times, it was hard to understand what that really meant when there weren’t many examples to look up to. My parents were on survival mode the moment they immigrated to this country. They worked so hard to make ends meet, they never focused on their goals, dreams or aspirations. Often times, families like to measure success by careers that were top notch in the Dominican Republic like being a doctor, a lawyer or a surgeon.

As I embarked on my journey on becoming a Speech Language Pathologist, I found myself often times explaining to my family and their friends what I was studying. Many didn’t understand the purpose of my career or why I was doing “that”. I worked very hard and graduated with honors in undergrad and graduate school. I moved to Texas to jump start my career. I worked hard towards obtaining my “dream” job and I’m proud to say that I’ve had a few dream jobs and now I am the owner of my private practice. As a first Gen American, I had to blindly pave the wave for my children and the younger members of my family. It’s hard to pave the way when you are at odds with what “success” means to those who are expecting it from you. My brother is about to be a published author and I couldn’t be prouder. I know how much work he’s put into his writing. Having his pieces published in a book is success but sometimes it isn’t interpreted that way because of the ideologies of “success” present in our culture.

First Gen Americans- I see you and I am you. Assimilating to American values while maintaining ethnic traditions sometimes causes a tug of war-one that I fully understand. Just embrace it and create your own path. I am forever grateful for the sacrifices my parents made so that I can be writing this blog today. But it took me a while to accept that my definition of “success” may not be the same as theirs and that’s ok. It’s my turn to pave the way and work towards something for my own children to keep the legacy of hard work and perseverance alive-qualities that are shared amongst Dominicans and Americans alike. Happy Hispanic Heritage month! Proud to say I am Dominican American!

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