I am not American. Technically speaking, I am an American citizen, and I was born in San Francisco; however, I have never been able to fully identify myself as living among the American culture. While my father and his brothers were the first generation to be born in America, they were brought up through Argentinean, Spanish, and Italian ethics. After living in Argentina and going to school there, my father ultimately became an Argentinean.
Having a mother from Denmark and an Argentinean father gave me a variety of cultural aspects while growing up. When I was young, it was never clear to me that my brothers and I were not being raised the same as those around us. The detail that contrasted most was our standard dinner time together as a family which occurred around 9:30 at night (honestly the concept of eating dinner at 6:00 is incomprehensible to me). This routine shocked many of our acquaintances who did not understand why we were still waiting to eat a meal so “late” at night. In elementary school, I experienced a large amount of questioning eyes which frequently turned to me as I pulled out my lunch which consisted of milanesas, empanadas, and alfajores. I never understood why I stuck out so much.
When I was eight years old, I traveled with my father and brothers to Buenos Aires where I was finally able to grasp the concept of cultures unlike the American lifestyle. Being of such an age, however, did not give me the full understanding of witnessing a new culture firsthand. This past summer, while journeying throughout various countries in Europe, I was blessed to be able to stand at the roots of my Spanish and Italian identity. This time I was engulfed in the culture.
The lifestyle of Spain and Italy was easy for me and my family to become accustomed to. Life consisted of plazas packed with people of all ages until the late hours of night, passion for food and music that filled the hearts of the people, and most importantly untroubling schedules all around—there was no rush or worry of being late for something, the people simply lived their lives. It was then that I understood the way I was raised: I had been brought up to life this way, yet I was trapped in an incompatible environment.
During our journey, I was lucky enough to attend a concert in Verona, Italy performed by the Arctic Monkeys. Seeing my absolute favorite band perform live in a foreign country was one of the most remarkable nights of my life. Neither my brother nor I could form a complete and proper sentence in Italy so ordering food and drinks or simply communicating with others at the venue was a slur of Spanish and English, along with hand motions as if that would help. The demographic at the concert was not primarily locals, but it was a combination of people from various parts of the globe—we had even met a couple there who had flown all the way from Barcelona just for the concert. This large sum of people who were not even able to fluently speak to an entirety of others had all come together for one evening to share their passion for music.
I knew that were it not for my amateur level of the language, I would not hesitate to settle down in Spain or Italy for a long period of time.
The most notable feature of my trip was held in Madrid: La Casa de Cisneros. This palace stood as a historical landmark bringing tourist from all throughout. Standing at this location irradiated my heritage, my culture, and my identity. I was overcome with a sense of pride and triumph. For the first time in my entire life, I felt like I was finally home.