The world is finally catching on…Hispanic Heritage Month has prompted some internal reflection on what it means to be Hispanic. It’s funny how a relatively intangible concept like Hispanic Heritage Month has pushed me to look inward. Perhaps it’s the social media posts that are floating around – or perhaps it’s that being Hispanic feels like it’s finally cool. I mean, I’ve known it’s cool for a long time, but I think the rest of the world is finally catching on.
Growing up in the Midwest, I was always quite conscious of the fact that I was different than the other kids. My parents sounded funny, we had a funny last name, and we were a lot louder than our Midwestern neighbors. We spoke Spanglish in the home, which is basically when your parents talk to you in Spanish and you respond in English. We wouldn’t dare speak Spanish in front of our friends because that would be an open admission of our weirdness.
“Did you arrive in a raft?”Being a Cuban family was just another thing that made us weird. Somehow people could wrap their head around a Mexican American family, but a Cuban American family? That’s just too much. “You’re Cuban? Were you born there? How did you get here? Did you arrive on a raft? What are you doing in Minnesota?” All of these were pretty normal questions throughout my life. Since these questions appeared with some frequency, we developed a standard family script that we learned to speak from. Whenever anyone asked you those questions you were supposed to kindly educate them and provide them with the preapproved response. “Yes, both of my parents are from Cuba. No, I was born here. No, I have not been to Cuba. Yes, communism is bad. No, we did not arrive on a raft.”
As a kid you learn to dodge the weirdness and embrace all the normalcy you can. For us, that normalcy manifested through the home my mother created. We grew up in a beautiful house in South Minneapolis. We had a yard and a golden retriever. We went to church on Sunday and we grilled brats. We went to baseball games and rode our bikes without helmets. We did the things normal Midwesterners did, normal Americans did, because we were American. We just did it with more flair, color, Spanglish and shouting.
Hispanics have always understood the power of homeownershipOur life was made possible because of the home we had. That home was our anchor and it provided us with so many memories. I can still close my eyes and smell the roast pork and rice and beans on Christmas Eve. I can recall huddling around the TV and watching our beloved Minnesota Twins win the World Series. I remember sleepovers in the basement and magic shows in the living room. I remember the birch tree we had in the front yard and I remember the day we had to cut it down. I remember taking that wood and burning it in the fireplace as my sisters and I pretended to do our homework.
That’s the power of a home and the power of homeownership. It creates stability. It creates a family. It creates memories. Hispanics have known this for a long time. That’s why we’re responsible for 63% of the homeownership gains in the last decade. Unsurprisingly, we are the only demographic in the US that has experienced an increase in homeownership; in fact, we’ve done it for the last four years running. When you consider that nearly 56% of all new homeowners will be Hispanic by 2030, that’s a lot of families making memories.
My mother has since sold that house and moved onto condo life and remains a proud homeowner. Even though we don’t have the yard or the golden retriever, my siblings and I, and the ever-growing population of grand kids, still have a home. I don’t need to go back into the memory bank for the black beans and rice, I just need to go to my mom’s house. And while I’m no longer embarrassed with the Spanglish, my kids are. One day they’ll even realize that it’s kind of cool… probably when they come home for some rice and beans."