Alien

When asked what my heritage is I simply respond, “Venezuelan.” When how I identify, I often have trouble answering. I identify as Venezuelan, but when you look at my job permit and any sort of legal United States document, I am identified as Alien. Ever since I moved to the United States, I was labeled with an Alien Number-- but why should they have a say as to how I identify? I moved to the United States when I was eight years-old because my father knew Venezuela was becoming more corrupt and wanted to give his family a better life. This melting pot of immigrants created my identity for me, Alien. However, I will not let that alien number define who I am, a proud Venezuelan and American woman. 

I know only that my ancestors are Spanish settlers, African slaves, and indigenous people native to Venezuela. My culture is rich in music, food, and family. We have a strong pride in where we come from. I have only ever identified as Venezuelan; however, that all changed when I moved to the United States. My sense of self and belonging was wiped clean as I entered a country that identified me as an alien. To my peers, I am a Latina woman that can speak Spanish and comes from a country they have never heard of. To my family, I am a strong and smart Venezuelan woman that is succeeding in this new country she calls home. My ancestry is Venezuelan, but my identity is Venezuelan and American. 

Kayla DeVault says that “to truly honor [her] heritage, [she] found [she] must understand and participate in it.” That is why during Christmas I always help my mom make hallacas, pan de jamón, and potato salad, the traditional Venezuelan Christmas dish. While the gaitas are playing, we set up the Christmas tree and under it, the nativity scene. The smell of Venezuelan food engulfs our small apartment and every time I leave the house the smell of food sticks to me like glue and I love it. We go to our fellow Venezuelan friend’s house and dance, eat, and laugh like we were back home. We play bingo and gamble quarters as we all talk over each other, conversing about this and that. My Venezuelan heritage and culture is rich and I am proud of it. 

Coming to a new country at a young age, I was immediately an outcast. I was the new girl. I was the girl that did not speak English. I was exotic. Growing up in a country that did not want me was and still is hard, and people often ask me why I would ever want to identify as American. My answer to their question is simple. This is my home. I knew that the chances of us going back to Venezuela was slim to none so I decided to make this country my home. 

My heritage is fully Venezuelan, but who is to say that I cannot identify as both Venezuelan and American? I know that identifying as American cannot be my heritage. It will not replace my Venezuelan heritage, but “it doesn’t matter how many pieces make up my whole; rather it’s my relationship with those pieces that matters” (DeVault). I am Venezuelan and I am American. I am an immigrant and I am Latina. The United States government will always know me as Alien Number XXXXX, but they will not know that my heritage is rich and beautiful and that I am a proud Venezuelan and a proud American.