My great grandparents traveled from Europe and Russia after the Pogroms in the 19th century to Argentina where the set up farms and businesses. In 1972, my parents who are both Jewish, immigrated to Minneapolis just before La Guerra Sucia (The Dirty War) started in Argentina. I was born in Minneapolis shortly after. Therefore, I am part of two diasporas: Jewish and Argentinian. I am Jewish and Latina because I was born from Jewish Latino parents. I speak English and Spanish fluently because I grew up speaking those languages.
I am told that my English is excellent by English speakers. I am also told by Spanish speakers that my Spanish is excellent as well. I am asked if I am a citizen or was born here. In the United States I am a citizen but not necessarily a full American, but in Argentina I am a foreign born Argentinian without citizenship. Soy Minnesotana, as some of my friends affectionately call me. I can check the Latino/a or Hispanic box and the white box on the census. My whiteness allows me the privilege to enter spaces that I would not normally enter if I had darker skin, but on paper, my being Latina has a glass ceiling.
Although I am white, American and a fluent English speaker, I have a unique and hard to pronounce Spanish name. I have anglicized the pronunciation for others so they don’t feel bad when they can’t roll the r or say the j sound in Spanish. My parents even gave me a nickname that was hard to pronounce for English speakers so I changed the spelling so that people would stop mispronouncing it. When people hear my name, it automatically puts me in category that I call “not quite white.”
What is great about being “not quite white” is that I bridge communities. My dedication to tikkun olam is enhanced because I identify as a Jewish person and as a Latina. Since I speak Spanish I can bridge communities and do great deeds like translate JCA’s Freedom Seder Haggadah or speak at the immigration rallies on May Day in English and Spanish as a representative Jewish person.
For me, the skill of being able to bridge communities as a Jewish Latina is a beautiful gift my family gave me to share. I’m honored to be this person. I get to repair the world in a unique way by honoring traditions. Who wouldn’t want that?
Alejandra will speak on a panel, “We Are Jews of Color”, at Adath’s Sampler of Jewish Culture on January 23, featuring different workshops. The evening begins at 6:30 PM and concludes at 10 PM with refreshments. Early bird registration, by January 21 is $14 or $18 at the door. For complete class descriptions and to sign-up go to: adathjeshurun.org/sampler-2016