David: My dad is Colombian. My mom is American. I've lived in Colombia my whole life apart from college. When people ask me where I'm from, I say Colombia. I've always thought my Wikipedia page would probably say Colombian American.
Eliza: Culturally, would you say you're more Colombian than American?
David: I think it's really hard for me to answer that question because my whole life's been such a different culture. But yes, I am more Colombian culturally than American. In Colombia, they call me gringo. Here, they call me Colombian. So I've never really been from any place. My high school was a Colombian American School for missionary kids with a lot of Colombians, and I was there K through 12. I felt very comfortable there. When I started hanging out with people outside of my school, I started seeing that people don't just know English. Most people don't look as White as me, so when I started hanging out with friends outside, I was different. I especially felt that during middle school at a youth group in my house.
Any time I'd mess up saying something in Spanish, they'd be like "freaking gringo." It was like a joking thing, but I really hated it. I never felt quite like one of them because of that.
Here, it's people defining me with Colombia. It was nice to have that change because I am Colombian. I did have big time culture shock when I got here. But sometimes it got annoying when "Colombian" was ALL I was to some people. For an American, you don't define them by where they're from. For example, a professor is not going to associate his student, Paul, with only Washington, even if that's where he's from. Maybe a little bit, but not completely. But for me, it's all like, it's the Colombian guy. Everything that I do is defined by being Colombian. I get all the Latino roles in the theater department even though I don't think I look that Colombian. That's the biggest thing.
People go, "Colombia. Cocaine! Pablo Escobar!" I mean, those are the things it's known for. I'll just joke around with them. If they say, "Oh, cocaine!" I sometimes say, "Oh, so you must be a drug addict." "What?" "Yeah 'cause, I mean, if you're a biker you know, Nairo Quintana. If you're a soccer player, you'd know James, a famous soccer player. And you know Pablo Escobar."
I sometimes try to avoid questions about where I'm from so that I avoid getting into all that.
Eliza: What does being Latino mean to you?
David: Being Latino to me means a lot of things. It means being from a Latin country, but then it also means being lively and people-oriented. I'm proud of it. Here, I miss my culture. If I see another Latino or Latina, we're just family. We have an understanding kind of thing. We know.
It is really interesting watching myself as a third party become more Colombian and more American. It's in flux. Right now, I can see how much more American I am than when I got here. Huh, I'm analyzing myself. Haha.
I've realized there are a lot of good things about America. I'm finding the things I value that Americans value like ambition, efficiency, creativity.
Living as a minority definitely affected my view of self. Müller, a musical I wrote, has a lot to do with bullying. I think a lot of that comes from being different. It has literally shaped everything about me. My whole life, I've had a different culture than where I'm at, and that very much has shaped my personality: how I talk, how I walk, how I interact with people.
My situation is really weird. Because if we're talking about my past, it's all me being an American in Colombia. And if you're talking about college, it’s about me being Colombian in the States.
Eliza: If you could get one message out there, what would it be?
David: Whooh, I'm scared. That's a big question. One of the biggest things that define me is where I'm from and my culture. It's a culture that's only in the four walls of my house.
It's hard, but I think it's given me a lot of benefits as well. I'm very adaptable. I'm different everywhere. I'm also the same everywhere. And it's just about getting cultures and embracing them and enjoying them, enjoying the spice that culture brings to life, you know?
If all of us were the same, that'd be so boring.
And in all this, I very much love the Colombian people. I very much love the American people.