My parents are from the Dominican Republic. It’s fascinating being immersed in two cultures since birth. I have the tough skin New Yorker instilled in me but I also adore my island.
This summer I went back to my island to visit my family over there. Cousins, aunts, the last two grandparents I have and even pets. I hate traveling. I get a lot of anxiety when I travel. I start thinking, “what if I lose my passport!” Or the typical, “what if something goes wrong.”
I admit I can honestly tire anyone out with my anxiety when I travel. Once I land on my island, I lose all that anxiety and tranquility comes over me.
I was finally reunited with these people who I haven’t seen in years but whose faces bring me peace. My grandfather has changed so much. His hearing isn’t how it used to be. He’s more reserved. He is skinner and I can tell his age is catching up to him. He still has that kind heart though. I made sure to hug him tight. He’s getting older and I don’t know how much longer I’ll have him here on earth.
My cousins all have babies now. They are married and have good jobs. They are actual adults. I mean, I am an adult too. I just can’t imagine myself being married or with a baby yet.
My siblings are the youngest ones out of the original cousins. Now the youngest are these second set of cousins growing baby teeth and learning to say, “Mama.”
The Dominican Republic has been my home away from home since I was a little girl in pink ballerina shoes. It’s where I am no longer living behind concrete. Instead, I am among trees, flowers, landscape. You know, nature.
My asthma barely bothered me over there. I kept joking it was that “Dominican fresh air.”
Being a Dominican American means in the Dominican Republic I am not truly Dominican, my cousins say “Tu no eres Dominicana, eres una Americana.” In the United States, people ask, “Where are you from?” I say, “New York.” They say, “No, where are you from.”
I consider myself a mix of both cultures. I am not 100 percent of either. I love the U.S because that’s where my life is. I have my friends, my college, my whole life is planned out here. The Dominican Republic is near in my heart as well because over there is where my family stays, beautiful scenery, and the warm hearts of the people over there build a bright light in mine.
This vacation reminded me how quickly the years can fly by. I haven’t gone in three years and suddenly so much has changed with everyone. Cousins are married, aunts left to other parts of the world. The only thing that remained the same was my grandmother’s tombstone. The cemetery even changed. My goal is to one day be able to travel enough that I won’t go for years without seeing them again.
Like my mother used to say, “If only both countries were a car ride away.”