Karen is a Practical English for Success (PES) volunteer serving in veredas in Magdalena, Colombia.
I’ve had a great time showing off my family to curious friends, neighbors, students and coworkers. For them, meeting one Hispanic-American volunteer was shocking enough — realizing she comes from an entire family of racially ambiguous people has raised more than a few questions.
“Is that one American, too?”
“Can they all speak English?”
“Why does that one look Chinese?”
Previously, I’d never thought of my family as an exemplar of American diversity. You grow up in a specific context and you forget that an outsider might see something unusual about it. I have three half-siblings who were born in Puerto Rico and have had varying levels of success retaining their first language. My little sister is, in fact, Chinese. My mom has delighted various host moms and siblings with her perfect command of Spanish.
I’m proud to introduce my family as counter-stereotype. We speak different languages with various degrees of fluency. There’s one tall blonde with blue eyes — the rest are, as my host sister described, “morenitos… ¡pero lindos!“
So many of the people I’ve met have expressed interest in one day visiting the states. I hope that, in showing pictures of my family, they won’t be surprised when they touch down in some American airport one day to see a variety of skin tones and hear a variety of languages.