Reflections of a First-Generation Hispanic-American

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Nicole Ardila/Staff Writer

Hispanic Heritage month is finally here. Despite the pride we have for our culture and heritage, there are issues that need to be addressed, like the pressure that comes along with being a first-generation American.

In no way would I ever deny being Hispanic or Latina. For those who are nit-picky, I am Colombian-American. I am the first American-born citizen in my family, and it is a big weight to carry.

Most foreign people automatically believe that all Americans have money and opportunities when that’s not the case at all. Living in America is about working and earning those things. 

Being Hispanic in a country where “dreams come true”, is something to be immensely proud of. Here, everyone can look down at you and doubt what you’re capable of, but it is so easy to prove them all wrong. 

Everything I do, everything I have, everything I am, is because of the struggles my parents went through as immigrants to provide me the life they didn’t have. The pride I have for being Colombian-American is not because of me, it’s because of the two people that raised me and worked hard to survive in this country. 

Seeking a better life and future, my parents decided to immigrate to America without knowing a lick of English, and basically starting their lives from zero. Those struggles are what builds pressure on a child of an immigrant because there’s no way we can let our parents down. We are constantly seeking approval making sure we’re not disappointing them. 

My parents worked hard for me to have these privileges here in this country, but I feel guilty to have them. It’s something they don’t seem to really understand. 

As I move forward in life, gain more independence and opportunities, I feel like I don’t deserve any of it. There’s this guilt I always carry when I leave my parents to go to privileged experiences. 

Even though both my parents were fortunate enough to go to university back in Colombia, a Bachelor’s degree from there is not equivalent to one here. Studying here in the U.S. is one of the biggest privileges someone can have, and being able to do so just makes me wish my parents had that opportunity, too. 

As a first-generation American student, it feels wrong earning an amazing education and job, while our parents continue to work hard every day. 

There’s this pressure to be an overachiever and become successful to help my parents in the future. After all, I owe them after everything they’ve done for me. The opportunities I receive only push me to work harder for my family, even if I’m stressed and feel like giving up. 

Something as simple as going out with my friends feels careless of me, while my parents are either at home or at work. There’s a weird feeling of leaving your parents behind while you go have fun, even though it’s normal to grow up and improve your own life.  

In America, we grew up with the idea of moving out after high school and college being “the time of our lives”. In Latin America, we have a collectivistic culture. Families share most of their time together, and normally people move out once they get married, not before. 

Growing up is definitely a bittersweet experience as a first-gen American. It’s even harder as an only child. You’re the only one your family can count on.  

Independence, traveling, learning and meeting new people are all the things that I look forward to. But the fact that I get to enjoy those things leaves me heartbroken knowing that I’m leaving my parents behind. The feeling of moving forward can be difficult, but perhaps it is for the best. After all, my parents do want me to chase my dreams. 

It’s difficult to see people born with these privileges while people of color have to work so much harder for them. I never had to go through the hardships of immigrating from another country — better yet, a third-world country. But being a child of people who have, teaches you to never take anything for granted. 

For us First-Gens, we can look at it this way: We are basically the “pioneers” in our families. 

The great thing about being a first-generation American is that my hard work is valued by the people that matter to me most. We should remind ourselves that we deserve every opportunity we’ve earned because our parents worked so hard for us to get them. 

And perhaps we shouldn’t be afraid to put our own happiness first for once. So let’s enjoy ourselves and our youth, and keep working hard to make our families around the world proud.

DISCLAIMER:

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

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