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Dascha Polanco Hispanic Heritage Month Essay

My Lineage Encompasses African Slaves But Also a Rich Global History

Dascha Polanco is an actress on Netflix's Orange Is the New Black.

It never ceases to amaze me how blended we are as Latinos, with so many different cultures within one heritage. We can be of any race or combination of races. Our culture is a mixed one, through which we share some of the same traditions and even the same language, but we also have our own customs and different accents.

I love the fact that as an Afro-Latina, I am the representation of a blend of our history of slaves from Africa stopping in countries like Brazil, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico. Because of this rich history, my roots are endless.

My background represents our fusion as Latinos. I embrace every aspect of my European, African, and Taíno-ness because all of these elements influence the music, food, art, fashion, and beauty I grew up with and the upbringing I received.

My features are beautiful and unique, a combination of all humankind and the result of a history of countries invading lands and depleting resources. Just like most people in North America, South America, and the Caribbean, I can look at myself in the mirror and clearly see that I'm the product of African slaves mixing with colonists mixing with natives.

Growing up in Brooklyn, NY, fitting in as a Latina was never a struggle. I could relate to the stories that all young Latino immigrants had. My family and I had the same stories, shared the same struggles, even if we didn't all come from the same country. As a Latina, I've always had the potential of being open to different ethnicities, cultures, and races because I, too, am a mix of all those things.

From bachata playing in the streets to passing by the Russian businesses and West Indian food spots in the streets of Brooklyn, embracing all cultures, not just your own, is part of being a Latino in New York City — a melting pot you can't hide from and that instead brings out everything you're made of as a Latino. We come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and dialects. We fit all descriptions.

Image Source: Dascha Polanco
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