Name: Gabriela Barrett
Mix: Peruvian & White-American (Jewish)
Major & Year: RC Creative Writing & Drama; Senior
I am a proud Latina Jew who is thankful for both sides of my heritage: the immigrants from Lima, Perú and the immigrants from Eastern Europe (Romania and Germany). I grew up in a household that was not only biracial and bilingual, but came from two families that practiced two different religions. My siblings and I were raised in a Reform Jewish Congregation like my father, but my mother was raised Catholic. We understood and practiced our faith while respecting my mother’s at the same time. The constant exposure to different cultures, religions, practices, traditions, and beliefs have helped create my identity.
Q: What do you wish more people knew about the mixed experience?
A: Being mixed is something no one really prepares you for. If you are mixed, it is usually because your parents come from two different races or ethnicities, meaning they also do not fully understand our experiences. The imposter syndrome is very much a real thing. While I have improved in dismissing this notion, it can be damaging when people do not believe you are who you say you are. It invalidates you. Not an action you might take or belief, your whole identity and being. Whether that be because of your skin color, the language you speak, the music you listen to, or the traditions that have been instilled in your life. I used to introduce myself as half- Peruvian. Well it is the truth. But, as I matured, I realized that my mother tried her best to still incorporate our Peruvian culture and heritage in the suburbs on the East Coast, far away from our Latino family on the West Coast. She did this with music, food, film, and of course, making sure we call up our family members and practicing our Spanish. I was lucky enough to also fly out there multiple times to celebrate holidays. I am a Latina. Yes, there is other blood flowing through my veins that is Ashkenazi Jew, but my experiences and history do not cancel one another. I now say I am Latina (not half). Growing up, I was a mixed Latina raised in a white-jewish community. I am privileged to have been accepted in both communities but there are silent judges who still always make you feel out of place. You sometimes just do not fit in, no matter how hard you try. “My skin is too white or my accent is too weak.” If the Spanish speakers in my family were not as forgiving with my shaky grammar, communicating would be even more difficult. But they love me, despite our different religions, despite our distance, and despite the color of my skin. We understand our bond and our strengthened by the two different sides of the stories we get to tell.
Q: What are you most anxious about right now?
A: People keep asking me what my plans are for post-graduation which I assume is the most obvious thing to ask to a graduating senior. I understand that. I even do that to my friends in a similar situation. But, as someone whose passion is in the arts and humanities, the future is not as easy to plan out. While a common answer, I am most anxious about my future. This safe bubble of education has cushioned me in my years of adolescence. But now, I do not get that security anymore. It is not just my career that I am unsure about. I’ve heard that the 20s is a time to explore, despite the stigma of knowing what you want to do straight out of college. I welcome the mystery of not knowing what I am going to do yet, but still fear the uncertainty. How will I support myself? Should I still pursue my dream or turn to something more safe? This leads to the other side of my anxiety, a side that is sometimes not talked about. The social environment of 20-somethings, post-college, is something that I am trying to mentally prepare for. Finding new friends, new hobbies, new love. They can be difficult to find, even more so in a new setting. You are met with this new life but without the training wheels that were given to you in the past. I am trying to tell myself I’ll be okay but also trying to be realistic. The people I know who have gone through all of this seem to have turned out okay, so maybe I will too?