Stephany is a 29 year old woman who was born and raised in Hoboken, New Jersey. So what ties Stephany to a specific ethnic group and culture? While Stephany was born and raised in America, her family immigrated from the Dominican Republic. In addition to identifying herself as Dominican, Stephany also considers herself to be “Afro-Latina”. Stephany stated that during her childhood, her family stressed of the importance of maintaining cultural pride while living in America.
Her mother made sure that her and her brothers learned how to speak Spanish, knew the customs and values of the Dominican culture, and stressed the importance of family with them. Through a detailed interview, Stephany was able to provide information specific to her cultural values, traditions, and ways of life as not only a Dominican woman, but as an Afro-Latina woman as well. Interview Questions (Interview responses are as follows with responses in italics) 1. What is your definition of family? The way that I define family is a little different from the way most Americans would define family, or at least that’s what I think.
Usually when one thinks of family, they just think of a mother, a father, some siblings, and then your grandparents. However, that’s not how we (Dominicans) do family. My definition of family includes of course my mother, father, brothers and sisters, and grandparents however, it does not stop there. My Aunts, Uncles, and cousins are also a part of my immediately family. They were always around so it felt like my Aunts and Uncles were almost like my second mother and father and my cousins were just an extension of my siblings. Also, and this is really, really important, your friends can turn into family too.
I have friends that are more like family to me than some of my actual family members. I also like some of my friends way better than some of my cousins. Family is also something that is very important to me. If it weren’t for the support of my family, I honestly do not know if I would have made it this far, especially after I had my son. 2. Did you notice any differences in how your mother interacted with you versus how she interacted with your brother? Where there certain things and ways that you were expected to behave as opposed to your brother? Oh definitely!
There were certain things that my brother did that I could not even think about doing and I used to be so confused! He used to be able to stay out late, have girls over the house, have a girlfriend, and just basically do what he wanted to do while I was barely allowed to leave the house! I was expected to stay home, help my mother with the up keep of the home, cook, clean, go to school and get good grades. I wasn’t allowed to stay out all night, if I broke curfew, I would get in trouble. I certainly was not allowed to date. I didn’t have a boyfriend until I was 17 years old.
I used to be so envious of him because it seemed like my parents were easier on him than they were on me, he got to do more, and it really bothered me because I was older than he is! I wasn’t allowed to be “lazy” nor was I allowed to really hang out with my friends as much as he was. If wanted to do something, I had to go with one of my cousins. I really think that’s why some of my cousins and are so close now. Looking back, I was really upset and did not understand why she was so strict with me and but so lenient on him, but now that I am older and a mother I get it.
All the cooking, cleaning, and staying in the house when I was younger was preparing me to become a better women so that when I left the home, and eventually start my own family, I would already know what to do. 3. Please describe the most important (or most celebrated) holiday in your culture. There are many holiday’s that are important to us, however, think that the most important and celebrated holiday in my culture is Dia de la Independencia, which is Independence Day in English. Unlike in America, where you guys celebrate on the 4th of July with BBQ’s and fireworks, Dia de la Independencia is celebrated a little bit differently.
On February 27th, we celebrate our independence from Haiti, by having Carnival, which is basically a big party in the streets. The entire country basically shuts d s down and every one hits the streets dressed in traditional clothing and you just dance and drink all night. There is food, music, people, and it is just an indescribable feeling. It almost makes me want to go back home now! When we are here in the States, there’s usually a parade in Paterson and we can celebrate there. 4. As someone who is bilingual, do you speak your native language whenever possible?
If not, why? If so, will you teach your native language to your children? Oh yes! In fact, I did not learn to speak English until I started school. In my house, all we spoke and speak is Spanish. I still have many older relatives who only speak Spanish. They never learned English and I don’t think that they want to. They say that there is no real need to learn it as most of the places they go to, are Spanish speaking places. I also think that growing up in Hudson County, where there is such a large Hispanic population, it is almost necessary to speak Spanish.
It’s almost like you got looked at funny or treated differently if you decide to speak English as opposed to Spanish. Thave a year-old son now and we speak both English and Spanish to him. He is in early intervention now because they feel as though he is not saying as many words as a toddler his age should be, and they recommended only speaking one language to him. After she told me that, I said to my boyfriend that if we can only speak one language to him then that’s fine but it’s going to speak Spanish. So now we only speak Spanish to him nd when he’s older then we will start speaking more English to him so that when he gets to school he won’t have to be put in an ESL class. 5. What would you say is, from your perspective, the most commonly held misconception about people of your culture? Oh there are many misconceptions about my people like all we do is play baseball, that we’re scammers, that our men are cheaters and have lots of kids all over the place, that we’re loud, and that only do hair. While some of that is true, that does not define us as a people.
Yes we may talk louder than most but it’s just how we were raised and we’re passionate about what we are talking about. While growing up, my mother and aunts would always tell me to watch out for Dominican men because they cannot be trusted; I don’t think that that was necessarily true. My parents are married v parents are married and have been for vears and there aren’t any children from my father that have popped up. Sometimes I look at my brother and he lives up to the stereotype at times but I know that he is a loving father so | don’t know. 6. Have you ever experienced racism? In what form? Oh absolutely!
Because I have darker skin and I definitely consider myself to be Afro-Latina, I felt like I have been treated differently at times. When I first started dating my son’s father, my family would tell me not to because he was darker too. They thought he was black but he is also Afro-Cuban. They didn’t want us together and they certainly didn’t want us to have children because they knew that he would have darker skin and they didn’t want him to be treated differently. I didn’t mind because I never got what the issue was. I know that lighter skinned Dominicans are used as the basis and standard of beauty but I never really subscribed to that.
Some of my family members also don’t like the fact that I identify as “Afro-Latina”. They feel as though I am denying my Dominican roots and heritage and that simply is not the case. 7. Have you ever felt excluded, or excluded others based your culture and ethnicity? There are times were I felt excluded within my own ethnicity and that is because my darker skin tone. They would tell me that I was part Haitian not fully Dominican. They would pick at me because my hair was not as straight as theirs was and they would call me names. I also felt excluded based on my ethnicity growing up in Hoboken and especially when I went to college.
I saw that I used to get strange looks from my classmates when | would walk into class at the start of every semester. They looked at me like I didn’t belong there or something. When we would get to the topic of Hispanics or Hispanic Families, then and only then would they look at me like I was some kind of expert of all Hispanic cultures and families. Cultural Identity The Dominican Republic is located in the West Indies where it shares part of the island of Hispaniola with Haiti. Before the arrival of the European Settlers, there were two native people who inhabited the island and there were the Arawaks and the Tainos.
The Native People and the European Settlers were able to live together and work together for a number of vears before things took a turn for the worst. More than 100 years after Christopher Columbus founded and renamed the island of Hispaniola, many of the Native people had died from disease, famine, and war. The Spanish calmed ownership of the island and in 1503, the Spaniards beginning bring slaves into the island who were forced to work long hours on the sugar plantations. Due to the intensive slave trade on the island of Hispaniola, this created a strong Afro-Latino presence that can still be seen in both countries on the island.
While the Spanish and European Settlers had largely inhabited the eastern part of the island, or what we now know as the Dominican Republic, the western part of the island was left empty for a number of years. That all changed in the 17th century when the French Settlers arrived in what we know as Haiti. The French would remain in control of Haiti until 1801 where Toussaint L’Ouverture and other blacks led a revolt against the French. Just 7 short years later, the same people led another revolt against the Spaniards and took control of the Dominican Republic.
While the Spaniards would take back the island of Hispaniola, it was short lived as the Haitians overthrew the Spanish a short time later. However, that all changed in 1844, when the Dominican people fought back, thus establishing what we now know as the Dominican Republic. Stephany stated in her interview that she was treated differently than her brother was and became envious of her brother because he was awarded certain privileges that she was not is due to how Latino families view the gender roles of boys and girls.
Research has shown that Latino boys and girls are often socialized differently, especially when it comes to things like: gender roles, sexuality, and family (Raffaelli & Ontai, 2004). According to Raffaelli and Ontai (2004), girls are often socialized and taught from a more traditional perspective and they are expected to be submissive to their husbands and fathers, maintain their virginity until marriage, and to be dependent on their family. While on the other hand, boy are taught to be dominate, independent, and do not have the same limitations that have been placed upon the girls (Raffaelli & Ontai, 2004).
Stephany stated that because she has darker skin and because she identifies herself as Afro-Latina, she has faced a lot of backlash from other’s and from her family. She was told not date people who were dark out of fear that her children would be dark and be treated differently because of it. Stephany also stated that she was not sure why there was such an issues about identifying as such because Dominicans and Haitians share and island and that “somewhere along the lines, there was mixing between the two races. This goes right along with what Brammer (2012), said as many of the Latino from the West Indies tend to not only share a great deal of history with one another, but they also share some of the same linage with one another. When looking at why this is, it is important to look at what it means to be Afro-Latino.
The word Afro-Latino is often met with a negative connotation that is left up to the interpretation amongst many Hispanics, however it can be defined as both the cultural and self-identification of a person from a Hispanic background. Higgins, 2007). Much of the discrimination and social injustices that Afro-Latinos face from those who share their same ethnic background can be traced back to the Colonial Period where the Spaniards brought over the slaves to work the sugar plantations (Chavez-Duenas, Adames, & Organista, 2014). Many Latin countries were divided into a caste system that was simply based upon one’s race and skin color where the Spaniards and their descendants were placed at the top (Chavez-Duenas, Adames, & Organista, 2014).
The closer one was at the top of the of the social caste pyramid the greater access they had to land, education, and other resources (Chavez-Duenas, Adames, & Organista, 2014). Because the Spaniards were at the top, they were allowed the opportunity to have the social, political, and economic control of others, especially of those who were of African descent (ChavezDuenas, Adames, & Organista, 2014). Those at the bottom on the pyramid, were denied privileges such as: being allowed to attend school, they were not allowed to obtain their citizenship, nor where they allowed to own land.
As time went on and as the popular of the Spaniards began to decline, the Spaniards began to implement what is known as “mestizaje” which is the attempt to erase the African culture of and to have them assimilate to the dominate culture around them (Chavez-Duenas, Adames, & Organista, 2014). Due to the previously mentioned, that is why Stephany may have felt like an outcast or looked at differently for identifying as Afro-Latina and having a child with a man who is also Afro-Latino.