Blended: Nick

Nick - Blended

Cuban/Greek/Irish

What are your parent’s ethnic backgrounds?

My mother is half Greek and Irish. My grandma came from Ireland when she was a child and her family had such a thick accent that they gave her the last name, ‘Brown’ instead of her actual Irish last name. I’ve never met my mother’s father; but according to my great aunt, who was the record holder of our family, he was Greek. My father is 100% Cuban and was born in Havana, along with my abuelo and abuela [grandpa and grandma]. He was less than a year old before he came to the US.

Can you speak any of these languages?

Sadly, I can’t speak any of my languages except for English.

Did you have any struggles growing up mixed race, such as any internal or external issues?

Never went through any struggles, but the only thing I remember was trying to fit into the Latino culture of friends and they had a hard time accepting me at first, but that never held me back from making friends.

Do you identify as mixed race or by one race?

I identify as mixed, but mostly with my Cuban side, because they come in all shades of color. Besides the fact that I don’t speak Spanish and grew up with my mom when my parents divorced when I was 4-5.

Do you feel, or have you felt, like you didn’t belong to either one of your ethnic groups?

I always felt like I belonged to my ethnic backgrounds.

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Blended: Richard

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What’s your ethnic background?

My mom is Peruvian and my dad is Chinese, I was born here.

Does it bother you when people ask about your ethnic background?

No, it doesn’t bother me at all. People just get confused with why I speak Spanish, then I just let them know. I usually make it simple and say I was born here, I’m American, but if they ask where my parents are from I just tell them my mom is from Peru and my dad is Chinese.

Do you visit each country often?

Not as often as I’d like to, but I was just in Peru a couple years ago. China, I need to go visit; I haven’t been to China since I was 15. I don’t really have any direct family in China. In Peru, I have a lot of family. Both my mom’s side and my dad’s side I have a lot of family down in Peru.

Did your parents meet in Peru?

My dad met my mom in Peru when he was 20 or 22, he went to Peru when he was 17 or 18 and was raised by his grandmother. Then they moved here and he was always working, particularly the upper west side [NYC] and decided to open this restaurant.

Do you identify with one side more than the other?

Not really. I just say that I’m mixed, I grew up with a lot of Asian-American kids, all or most of my friends are Chinese-American. Since I grew up with them, they’ll just consider me Chinese-American, they don’t really see the other side of me where I have to speak Spanish, that’s just mainly for work, I don’t really have to speak it outside of work, except in my home. At home, my mother spoke to me in Spanish growing up.

Do you feel that one of your communities outcasted you?

Growing up in Queens there weren’t too many Peruvians. Naturally, I just stuck with whatever was more comfortable to be around, since I look Chinese/Asian I kind of just naturally wanted to hang out around other people that looked just like me. I think that’s just natural human reaction, but being outcasted, no, I never felt that way even towards the hispanic culture.

Did you ever feel like you had an identity crisis?

No, never.

Do you think there’s a struggle growing up mixed race?

Yea, because it wasn’t that common [around the 90’s], it was looked weird upon. But, its something very common nowadays. Growing up in the 90’s in Queens, it wasn’t that nice, I grew up in the very hispanic neighborhood. It was my family and another two Asian families on that block and we were just treated a little bit more differently because we didn’t look hispanic. So just growing up in that neighborhood was a little bit tough, for me, but we just adjusted and adapted. I mean, until I was 10 I grew up with hispanic kids and they weren’t that nice to me. They were kind of like, “What are you doing here on my block, you’re Chinese.” I didn’t have a nice childhood, but I adapted.

Blended: Gina

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What are your parent’s ethnic backgrounds?

My mother is Mexican and my father is Italian.

Can you speak any of these languages?

No.

Did you have any struggles growing up mixed race, such as any internal or external issues?

Never had any serious struggles internally or externally. Though my mother grew up very poor and struggled most of her life until she went into the military because she thought that was the only way to get out of financial struggles.

Do you identify as mixed race or by one race?

Mixed. If people tried to identify my race, they would only see either my Italian or Mexican, not both. 

Do you feel, or have you felt, like you didn’t belong to either one of your ethnic groups?

I feel like I missed out on my Mexican heritage growing up. I personally love the culture but when my mothers grandparents moved to America they didn’t want anything to do with their culture, so they learned English and cancelled out speaking Spanish. My fathers side of the family was always very Italian when it came to food, music, culture, etc.

Coming to America: Carla

DSC_0008_01.2.jpgTranslated by me.

Edited by Marta Russoniello.

Place of Origin: Milan, Italy

When and why did you come to America?

I’m from Milan, Italy. I came to America for the first time on October 2011 thanks to an internship for educators with a J1 VISA. I was in Minnesota for three months working as a youth counselor in a juvenile center and three months in Massachusetts in a center for disability services. Then I moved to New Jersey, indefinitely, in 2012 thanks to my husband’s job.

What is your favorite thing about America?

I always dreamed of living in America, it has always been “fascinating” to me, different, I mean everything is good; I admire the politeness of people, the courtesy, because in Italy no one greets you while walking down the street, but here they do! The feeling of community, the civic feeling, and the patience when dealing with respecting the rules or the lines at the post office!

America is a cross-cultural country, there’s a heavy gathering of cultures, I’m part of it and I find it great, it makes you feel like you’re part of something that looks towards progression, towards the future.

What is something you dislike about America?

The first thing that comes to mind is the healthcare system but I’ve come to live with it. Other than this, up to now I don’t really know of something that I actually dislike about America, but I believe that coming from another place you tend to make comparisons often with the country of origin and you find things that you preferred before and other things that you now prefer.

Did you face any challenges while living here? If so, what were they?

Yes, learning English was a challenge; I consider the knowledge of the local language as the first step towards integration, therefore the sooner you learn it, the better. Because the feeling you get when people around you don’t speak your language and you don’t speak theirs is horrible, but obviously it’s the key to learning it. It’s exhausting not being able to communicate; your emotions are especially tested. Your true personality struggles to come out. I seemed shy, when in fact I wasn’t really at all! When one immigrates to a foreign country the link with the previous place is nonexistent and loneliness is inevitable. But, if you make the first step towards integration, every door opens and you’re embraced well. But building a new network of friendships, getting to know people takes time and willpower and yet nothing would be able to replace the relationships that you left back home.

Do you consider yourself ‘American’? If so, why?

I consider myself Italian more than anything else, but part of me also feels American, especially since my daughter was born here and it ties me even closer to this place.

 

Blended: Michael

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*Photo submitted by Michael*

What are your parent’s ethnic backgrounds?

My father is 3rd generation Italian-American (his parents: Italian-American + Italian-American from Italian + Italian). My mother is Korean (I do not know her family to any extent).

Did you have any struggles growing up mixed race, such as any internal or external issues?

I’m not sure how to answer this. I don’t think being mixed brought on any real struggles. Perhaps it was a little difficult growing up not feeling like you are apart of an inherit community. I think growing up is already a difficult thing for a young adult— we face huge internal and external issues at every stage of growing up— and I think it may be easy to pass some of these normal struggles off onto being mixed. So I am apprehensive to do so right now.

Do you identify as mixed race or by one race?

I spent most of my very young years with my Korean mother, but I think I was too young for the culture to really take root. I then spent the rest of my life (probably after 1st grade?) with my Italian-American side of the family (my father and his parents). I would say all of my childhood memories are very Italian-American-New Jersey, if you will.

My parents divorced when I was very young, and is the reason for the shift in environment.My Father also re-married to another Korean woman when I was in around 4th grade. She was 1st generation Korean also, so she had a very strong Korean culture in her everyday life. But she did not spend much time with the family. So again I did not have a very close tie to Korean culture.

I think because of my situation and exposure, I never really identified as Korean, or even Asian. I did not have many Asian friends growing up (although my high school maybe had a no more than 5% Asian population…). When someone asks me “what are you?” (as ignorant as it is, that is almost always how it is phrased…) I usually respond with “I’m half Korean half Italian.” I usually feel silly after I respond, almost like specifying “Italian” is obnoxious. I know many people who are half something and half “white”— which to them is easier because of the extensive mix of various Caucasian ethnicities. But my fathers parents are full blown Italian—back as many generations as I know. So I guess I think there is merit in the distinction, but I still feel awkward specifying in public.

Although I have a very high interest in Italian language and culture, it did not start until I was in my early 20’s (I am 29 now.) My father never spoke Italian or even knew the culture, and my grandparents spoke broken English and broken Italian and were born here as well. So I never had the language around me or a real authentic Italian culture around me either.

I cannot explain the connection I felt when I first started exploring all things Italian… but there is something magical about it that one cannot ignore!

Do you feel, or have you felt, like you didn’t belong to either one of your ethnic groups?

For sure. I never felt like I belonged in any Asian group or European group. Any Asian groups I knew were very into their culture— they would freely speak in their Asian language and were very closed to allowing others in (or at least that was how it was perceived by me). My group of friends growing up were always very mixed. For example my high school best friends were African American, Ukrainian, Irish, and American.

I’ve visited Italy twice in my life so far, and I never felt like I was looked at as an insider. Not only was I a tourist, but I always had it in the back of my mind that the locals saw me as an “Asian tourist.” I’ve seen videos of Italian groups rallying together protesting the growing Asian population in Italy. I’ve seen the huge hordes of Asian tourists clogging the streets of Florence, gathering looks of hatred and annoyance. I’ve seen huge racism in my own country towards growing Asian populations and assimilation. I think these experiences together, over the years, always created an insecurity that I will be lumped into these terrible stereotypes just because of the way I look.

Coming to America: Giulia

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Place of Origin: Merate, Italy

When did you move to America?

I came to America on August 5th, 2013. Right after I finished high school.

What’s the one thing you miss the most in Italy?

I miss the way of life and my family. Even though things are changing, in Italy, people still pay attention to having a balanced life. People still cook with good quality food, they walk a lot, they simply enjoy hanging out in a park or on a bench in the main square. The contact with nature in most of the country is still very important. Moreover, my entire family is still there: my mom, dad, sister, niece, brother, everyone! During holidays and festivities is when I miss them the most, but I also miss even just having a good chat with my sister on a regular day.

What were some challenges, if any, that you faced?

My family’s disapproval. I was in the country completely alone and I was lacking of their support.They were not thrilled of the fact that I was going to leave for the U.S. for an entire year, and when I extended for an additional 12 months they were very upset.

What’s the one thing you like the most about America?

I like the intercultural exchange the most. I love that I can meet people from all over the world, get to know their stories and their culture, and, if I’m lucky, a little bit of their language. I think it makes me richer as a person and teaches me on so many different levels. I also like that, at least in my experience, everyone seems approachable. For example, if you are introduced to a person that has quite an important job or is a “big shot,” and you later send them an email, you have pretty good chances that they answer. It does not really work like that in Italy.

What do you dislike the most about America?

I don’t like the falsity with which people tell you, you have all the opportunities in front of you. I have been looking, and it has not been easy, especially for an immigrant, to see all the opportunities they are talking about. The American dream is just a dream, unless you have a couple of degrees, no students loans, and quite some money already. There are opportunities if you are willing to work for free mostly. Sometimes I really understand why people decide to come here illegally or just work under the table. Sometimes it is the only way you can have some of those opportunities.
 
Due to your situation, if you had the choice, would you rather live in America or Italy?
 
I think I will want to live in Italy, and this is why I think I am moving back. I just enjoy the lifestyle better there. Also, for me to get another visa or to start the application for the green card costs just way too much money. I do not have the resources now to stay here.