Estrella: My mom is Guatemalan and my dad is from Belize. I am also part Mayan and Creole. I've been in the United States for 15 years. I would definitely consider myself Latina.
It's weird because I never thought I was any different from anybody else until I came to the U.S.
Etta: What does being Latina mean to you?
Estrella: Latina means… being blessed with the strength of having the best of both worlds. You see hatred and discrimination. But you also get to see who is with you in the journey.
You know the Latino festival they have in Lexington? That is the perfect time I feel connected to my cultures because people there are from all over: Central America, South America, Mexico, Haiti... That's when I don't have to think about what other people think of me. I wish more people could experience what it's like to be someone of a different face, of a different color, and who speaks a different language.
When I say I can speak Spanish, people automatically assume that I'm from Mexico. I just want to know what they're thinking because they probably don't realize Mexico isn’t the only Spanish-speaking country. There are also different dialects in Spanish.
People sometimes ask me about my status. It's not something that makes me upset because I'm happy to share information about it. But it doesn't mean I'm trying to take advantage of somebody. A guy at Asbury asked me about my status, and I was like, "What do you mean? Do you think I'm just gonna marry you because you're Caucasian?" I wasn't even thinking about that at all. I just thought it was really funny that that can be the first thing that comes up in somebody's mind, you know? He thought that I was using him for a certain thing, which was weird. My thoughts weren't about the benefits marriage would bring me or about marriage at all. I was just like, "Wow, that's really low."
I get mixed feelings whenever I'm asked where I'm from or what ethnicity I am. Sometimes I get, "Are you mixed White and Black?"
Etta: Has living as an ethnic minority in the U.S. affected your view of yourself?
Estrella: It hasn't. It's just made me careful about how I'm supposed to live. Many people can go, "I can do whatever I want. It doesn't really matter if I get in trouble with the law." Well, it does matter for me. I have to be a little bit more careful in what I do and be more thoughtful about my next steps.
Etta: Do you and your family actively preserve your culture or ethnic heritage in any way?
Estrella: We try to because it's a piece of home. I haven't been back for, what, 15 years? We preserve our Hispanic side more because I don't actually know much of what happens in Belize although we do preserve foods from Belize and from Guatemala. I have not met anybody else from Belize. It gets kind of lonely when you don't have people from the same culture to talk to. Yeah, we do it so we can keep a little piece of home with us.
Etta: When you think about times you feel connected to your culture, could you give a word that describes how you feel?
Estrella: It's gonna sound kind of cheesy, but the color yellow. Yellow is a symbol of happiness and joy. It's associated with light. It gives me hope for seeing a bright future in which people will understand more about minorities instead of assuming the worst of us.