POV: Reconnecting with My Roots


T Lopez, Opinion Editor

Reading Time: 2 minutes

The smell of my mom’s platano fritos cooking fills the room. She talks about how this used to be a snack for her growing up and growing up in El Salvador. The glint of memories shines in her eyes as she talks. 

I’m Salvadorian.

I grew up with my dad’s side of the family. There’s a hustle going on preparing for a family Christmas. I have no idea what they’re talking about. They’re speaking Zapotec. 

I’m Mexican.

Connecting and appreciating my culture has always been something tough for me. I had two cultures, but I only knew about one partially due to a weird stigma of being anything but Mexican. 

I’m pale, causing people to constantly question my ethnicity. I grew up hearing three languages spoken, but I was taught English. I didn’t “look or sound Latino” enough for others, and I let others’ opinions about who I was impact my connection to who I was.

During quarantine, as my mother would say, I had too much time on my hands. I decided to spend my time googling my indigenous roots. The Zapotecs, Ben ‘Zaa, The Cloud People. For so long we’re told the colonizers helped the “savage Indians” in history class, so as I kept reading, there was a sense of pride and pain in my heart. I come from such an amazing civilization of people who were nearly wiped out. 

The only way the Zapotec culture stayed alive was through food, art, and knowledge passed down verbally. It was cool to see how even food still had traces of tradition in it, and how indigenous practices were hidden in religion. 

Despite the horrors of colonization, my people stayed strong and weren’t completely wiped out. Wikipedia says we’re a dead civilization, but we’re all still very much alive.

I’m Salvadorian on my mom’s side. Like pretty much all Latin American countries, El Salvador doesn’t have a great past. Civil war took over the country for many years, with violence still being an issue now. That greatly impacted my connection to it because what parent wants their children to know about the horrors they escaped from? I never pushed for more because I didn’t want my mom to go back to a place she didn’t want to be, but as I spent more and more time with her, she opened up. 

I usually learn through food. Food can bring back the warmest memories with just a scent. My mom would cook eggs the way her mom used to, we’d share a plate, and she would tell me how her mom used to make things growing up. My mom made platanos and I ate the whole plate while my dad called me his Salvi kid the rest of the week.

I got to meet someone from my mom’s family for the first time earlier this year. It felt like a missing part of myself had suddenly found its way back. I got to meet a family I was never able to see and learn more. I got to learn about the generational differences and how impactful they can be in our mentalities and how beautiful El Salvador is. 

I was always a curious person, but I never dove into my culture because I was scared of other’s comments. I’m at a point now though where I don’t care. 

I’m Mexican and Salvadorian. I come from two amazing backgrounds that are from two of the strongest people I know. I’m proud of who I am and will be no matter what.