Frida Vigil has been reflecting on her Salvadoran roots over the past few months.
“Growing up, I never really identified as being Spanish,” Vigil, 25, told CBC Toronto.
“My friends always call me ‘whitewashed’ and I’ve always really kind of agreed because there’s a lot of my culture that I don’t know, a lot of the traditions that I don’t follow.”
Vigil, whose family came to Canada from El Salvador when she was five, is now working on a social media campaign called #ShowUsYourLatinRoots with a group called the Hispanic Canadian Heritage Council.
The campaign was launched in October to mark Latin Hispanic Heritage Month and is part of an effort to get Latin and Hispanic youth in Toronto talking about how they identify with their cultural backgrounds.
“I kind of feel like I turned my back on being Salvadoran,” said Vigil, who now lives in Toronto. “Now that I’m doing this, I realize that there’s actually a whole community that has my back.”
Because she came to Canada at a young age, she didn’t pay much attention to her cultural upbringing. She says her family didn’t actively keep up with all the traditions, even though it was always in the background.
Katherine Moncada, who is 20 and lives in Mississauga, has also been working on the campaign. She says the way she identified has always been a mismatch, since she’s lived in Nicaragua, Quebec and now Ontario.
“In my house, it was always a mixture of French and Spanish,” said Moncada, whose family immigrated to Canada from the Central American country when she was 16.
“I think that my parents always try for us to maintain the Spanish language because it gets very, very confusing with my siblings. I speak French with my parents, I speak Spanish and they try to make us do full sentences in the language because we put [it] like a puzzle.”
The two women hope social media will help spark a dialogue about culture and identity.
“This campaign for me is also rediscovering my roots again … and going back to what it means to be Hispanic because I feel like it is not only the language, not only the food, but it’s a feeling of belonging,” said Moncada.
‘There really is no wrong answer’
While both Moncada and Vigil are Latin Canadians, they identify with their culture in different ways — an example they hope others follow.
“The great thing about this is that there really is no wrong answer,” Vigil said.
“When you ask someone, like, ‘Show us your Latin roots,’ they can show you whatever they identify with. So that’s what’s really neat about this … We are going to get people who are mismatched and other people who are just really into one culture,” she added.
“We want to understand how the first and second generation Canadian Latin Americans, how they identify. So [it’s] kind of like our only goal and maybe along the way, find the answer for ourselves as well.”
Moncada, who is the eldest in her family, hopes this campaign will change the way many younger Latin Canadians think, especially her siblings — who she says are “getting kind of off track and getting lost … about their heritage.”
“They were even younger when we came here and I can see that when we talk, sometimes they don’t feel anything regarding Nicaragua.”
The journey of reconnecting with her culture now has Vigil reflecting on how it relates to her future.
“Something that we kind of take for granted is the culture that we have in our homes,” Vigil said, including the Spanish foods that she grew up with.
“It kind of has me thinking when my parents aren’t here anymore who’s going to make this food?” she said.
“You really think about the future and think about how you’re going to incorporate your culture with your family, if you choose to have one,” Vigil added.
“What parts of your culture [are} going to live on with you? Or is it just going to end here?”