For the majority of my life, I have been wondering about my roots and family heritage. I had been moved around ten times by the time I was ten years old, making me feel a disconnect with my culture and a complete lack of stability. I entered the foster care system at the age of ten because my father was deported, There were a lot of challenges that I faced as a Mexican-American foster child. I was not sure of my heritage and grew up in a very mixed environment of Caucasians, African Americans, and Hispanics.  I had a hard time fitting into any of the groups and could not fully identify with any one culture since I didn’t grow up with a family that was defined.

412manuel-master675It was confusing for me to move from one home to another. I constantly struggled with trying to figure out each family’s way of life. I was left with only vague memories from my own culture because of being in foster care for so long. I had a few memories from my parents, but those faded over my years in the foster care system.

Eighty-five percent of the students I graduated high school with were Caucasian. Because of that, I did not have a lot of opportunities to interact with other Latinos while in foster care. This made it a lot more difficult to express myself as a Latino since my fellow peers expected me to act “American” rather than Latino. I struggled with trying to figure out if I was fully American of fully Mexican. I constantly felt like I was caught in a current that I didn’t have the ability to swim against.

It is difficult, at times, to have to deal with the fact that people think I know Spanish because of how I look, or that I must have a big family since that is how society perceives Latinos in a stereotypical way. Because of my environment and the stereotypes,  I had a very hard time discovering my Latino identity. It seemed others were the ones defining my identity and roots because those roots were removed from me. I didn’t have many opportunities to explore myself as a Latino. I never saw my father again after he was deported to Mexico, so I felt that my Mexican heritage connection was lost forever.

LULAC has helped me to make some connections that I need to get back to my roots. I can’t thank them enough for being a part of my life and helping me to find myself as a Latino.