Growing up, I remember people asking me if I considered myself more Hispanic or more American. I thought it was an odd question, because I didn’t think I had to choose between the two. My parents are from Bolivia and my brother and I were born and raised in Texas. It was hard to explain back then, but I felt I was American and at the same time truly loved and appreciated the Bolivian culture. My parents taught me to cherish the culture by sharing pictures, music, traditions and food, and by taking us on trips to visit family there. I really felt I was a combination of American and Bolivian. My husband is from Mexico, and it’s much easier, especially in L.A., to expose our daughters to Mexican culture.
Now that I’m responsible for helping create memories for my kids and passing along traditions, I wanted to put more effort into teaching them about their heritage. I got to work researching things to do and ways to teach that are engaging and memorable.
Since trying new foods is always a treat, I started there. I once read that our sense of smell is closely linked to memory, so it’s no surprise that certain scents send us back to childhood. I searched Bolivian recipes to try at home and familiarize the kids with meals I loved growing up.
Since some traditional Bolivian foods can be complicated to prepare and require ingredients that can be difficult to find, I picked easy options including salteñas, a type of savory baked empanada; and silpancho, a hearty dish of rice, potatoes, beef and fried eggs. We also discovered a local Bolivian restaurant where we could try a feast of different flavors.
At an annual Bolivian festival that celebrates the country’s independence day, we had a blast! It’s a perfect place to try new foods and experience traditional dancing and music from the region. With so much diversity in the L.A. area, there is bound to be a festival out there for every heritage.
Another idea is to look at old photo albums. My mom has several albums filled with pictures of both my parents growing up. It’s fun to watch my kids look through them with my parents and listen to their stories.
Your family’s memorabilia will blossom into rich storytelling tools that will fascinate the next generation while teaching them about where they come from.
Celebrating our heritage during Hispanic Heritage month in October teaches our girls to be proud of where they come from, and you can celebrate your heritage any time of the year. It’s all a wonderful learning opportunity. In a world with constant change, celebrating family heritage gives kids comfort, a sense of identity and stability, and can strengthen a family’s bond.
Daniella Guzman is the anchor on NBC4 Southern California’s “Today in LA” weekday morning newscast, 4:30-7 a.m., and a mother of two. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @daniellanbcla.