The Identity Series: Miami Girl

Hayley Serpa/Staff Writer

I was born in sunny Miami, the bustling U.S. city that most Latin Americans dream of migrating to in their search for an improved quality of life abroad. My beautiful cosmopolitan, a petulant child of the ever-expanding globalized world, is just as diverse and varied as the people who call it their home. For this reason, I have chosen our city as the perfect analogy for describing my own identity as a diverse and varied individual. 

I, much like Miami, am the product of different social and cultural traditions. My mother had migrated from the coastal city of Lima, Peru to Miami, hoping to try her luck in the prosperous tourism industry of South Florida. My father is an American-born son of a Polish woman and a Spanish man, leaving me to trace my roots back to some southern Iberian noble family and Catholic Poles. 

Much more is known about my mother’s side of the family. For instance, there are some once-removed cousins of mine who live in the forest brow of the Amazon and who own this fabulous farm and Spanish-style hacendado house.  But, in all these places, no matter how comfortable or uncomfortable I feel in the setting, I am treated differently. When I am in the States, I am a Hispanic woman. When I am in Peru, I am an American woman. 

Having this duality of identities has caused me to greatly consider myself and what others think of me.

Having this duality of identities has caused me to greatly consider myself and what others think of me. You see, a real crisis of identity can form if there exists any sense of doubt in yourself and who you are vs. who others think you are. Being treated differently in the two places I call home has led me to doubt my own sense of self many times. However it is thanks to these same conditions that I have realized that identity cannot be classified based on ancestral ties, coincidental birthplaces, or other common identity markers, such as linguistic and cultural backgrounds. 

One of the most common identity markers are languages or dialects. I had grown up speaking Spanish at home with my mother’s side of the family, listening to Spanish salsa, merengue, and baladas. English was the language I exclusively spoke at school with my fellow classmates and teachers; I did not share with it the personal, intimate relationship that I had with Spanish. This unique form of linguistic identity, in which I associate my inner circle with the slurring sounds of Spanish and my outer circle with staccato English, has allowed me to form a different relationship with language and communication that would have remained untapped if I had not been exposed to both languages from an early age. 

The same remains true for many other children that have grown up speaking more than one language. In the case of Spanish speakers, of which Miami has hundreds of thousands, it has formed a new mode of communication in between the two languages. Spanglish combines the Spanish of many immigrants with English, the official language of the United States. There is no better place to encounter Spanglish than in Miami, yet again affirming the idea that Miami has become so diverse and varied that it has even managed to create a new form of globalized communication.

Geographic, genetic, and linguistic backgrounds are what is usually asked when identifying yourself. But, after taking the time to truly ask myself who I am, identity has solidified itself as something far more encompassing and grander than where you were born, who you are related to, or what language you speak at home. The traditional definition of identity is too constricting and liminal for what identity really is.

I see myself as a woman much like the city of Miami, a city so diverse and varied that at this point I should constitute my own category. I am all of the above and in embracing all of my identities, I have formed my own unique identifier, one that combines all of my unseen contributing factors and created who I am today.

This article is the fourth in a series focusing on cultural identity.


The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.

Be the first to comment on "The Identity Series: Miami Girl"

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.