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10 Ways To Reconnect With Your Latin American Heritage

Are you living away from the motherland? Don’t worry, here are 10 ways to reconnect with your Latin American heritage.

If you’re a Latinx, living away from Latin America can make it hard to stay in touch with your heritage—especially during these times where xenophobia is the rule. Native-born citizens tend to frown upon foreign cultures, mostly because of ignorance and irrational fear. But often, Latinxs themselves are guilty of ignoring the customs and language of their ancestors, and thus fail to understand the very culture they come from. If you want to fix that, here are 10 ways to reconnect with your Latin American heritage if you’re living elsewhere.

1. Improve your Spanish, Portuguese, or whatever language your ancestors spoke

This is perhaps one of the best ways to get closer to the culture and history of your heritage. Whether it’s Quechua, Spanish, Portuguese, or Náhuatl, find online articles or books in order to practice it. If you don’t speak a word, think about taking some courses. Otherwise, just keep honing those linguistic skills. 

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Try and speak it with the people around you, or even to yourself when you’re alone. Don’t let those people yelling that “you must speak English if you’re in America” get to you—they’re wrong! Keeping in touch with your heritage is not a betrayal of the American spirit at all.

2. Spend a few days or weeks visiting your motherland

There’s nothing like a vacation to get in touch with your roots. It’s a revealing experience, to say the least. The point of this trip is to learn about your ancestors and create a deep connection with them: walk where they walked, eat where they ate, see what they saw. Try and put yourself in their shoes, and you’ll be transported back to where it all began. This will give you a much better understanding of where you come from, especially if you’re aware of your family history. 

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But it’s not only about reconnecting with your ancestors. It’s also about taking in the current culture of their homeland. Meet the people, eat the food, share in the customs, and get to know what your ancestral society is all about.

3. Visit other Latin countries

You can also get to know your motherland’s neighboring regions and nations. You’ll find what all the Latin American countries share—and how they differ. Doing this will give you an excellent idea of the more “essential” features of the Latinx culture and its variances, and will allow you to further contextualize your own particular heritage.

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4. Talk to your grandparents about your family history

As revealing and enriching as it is, traveling is not enough—nor is it the only way to reconnect with your past. Another excellent approach that complements traveling and learning a language is finding out the details of your family history. Where do they come from? How did they meet? 

Your grandparents should be able to tell you a lot about it, but if for any reason they can’t, you could always try to find out on your own. Look for records, photos, or documents. I once found several letters that my great-grandfather wrote to his children, and they were amazing to read. It gave me a window into the inner life of my family, their worldview and their worries. 

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It was like traveling to the past and talking with these long-gone relatives whom I already admired. It definitely allowed me to better understand why my grandparents thought what they did, which in turn allowed me to understand my mother—and myself—under a light I would never have been able to see otherwise. 

5. Learn your abuela’s (or abuelo’s) recipes

Just as eyes are the windows to our souls, food is the window to our culture. If you’re serious about keeping in touch with your heritage, this step is unavoidable. Part of finding out your family history is learning the family recipes.

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6. And cook a traditional dish while you’re at it

This goes without saying. You can’t really learn the recipes if you don’t actually cook them. And obviously, the more recipes you have, the more dynamism you’ll get on your menu, so you can mix and match or cook different dishes on appropriate days. Try to cook a few of these at least once a month, so you grow to appreciate them further while reconnecting constantly with your traditions. 

7. Listen to Latinx music

There are great Latinx artists out there, both contemporary and classic. Look for them on Spotify (or on your preferred app) and give them a go. This will not only help you reconnect with your roots, but will remunerate the artists themselves—which they deserve! 

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8. Read Latinx authors

While we’re on the art topic, let’s not forget about literature. Latin America has a very rich literary history, and you won’t regret getting to know its talented authors better. Gabriel García Márquez, Juan Rulfo, Jorge Luis Borges, Fernanda Melchor—all of them (and many more) are worth reading over and over. This will also help you improve your preferred language!

9. Find out what’s going on with the politics of your ancestors’ countries

To get a good glimpse of your heritage, you must understand what drives its culture. It’s not all about knowing the myths and language and customs, but the daily struggles of its people as well. Politics often reflects the problems a society is going through, and learning about your motherland’s political climate will get you closer to your relative's plight. Getting involved, even if from afar, with the politics of a nation is a strong way to connect with it. 

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10. Read about your motherland’s history

Just like politics, reading the history of the country your heritage comes from is essential for understanding the social and cultural features that can make up your own identity. Did another nation colonize it? What was your culture like before that? What values do you share with your motherland’s history? These are all intriguing questions that can give you invaluable insight into your family and, by extension, yourself. 

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