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What Hispanic Heritage Month means in my house

Deborah Cruz is a SheKnows parenting expert and blogger at The TRUTH About Motherhood, which she calls a place of "humor, support, honesty and integrity." Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

When I was in school I was asked every September, for Hispanic Heritage month, to write about what it meant to be Hispanic. I used to think that I could answer that question but I can't because there is no one answer. I can only answer for me.

For me, being Hispanic is not about where I was born or an exotic name and has absolutely nothing to do with the color of my skin. For me, being a Latina is a state of mind. Yes, I do have some typical Latina characteristics. I have big, almond-shaped brown eyes. I have dark hair. I am a loud, hand talker with a flair for the dramatic, but I think that is more Cruz and less a "Latina" quality.

When I think of the Hispanic culture, I think of passionate people, who love family and live with strong faith. Well, that's what it means to be Hispanic in our family. I know I can't umbrella everyone under this same statement but in general, I find it to be true a lot of the time.

I grew up in a large family where all of my aunts and uncles had large families, and when I was small it wasn't an oddity to have 50 family members at a birthday cookout. It wasn't a situation where we only saw one another on the holidays. For us, traditionally in our culture, I think that trans-generational togetherness is what is expected. Once-a-year visits are simply unacceptable. Family is everything and that tends to include married-in family and close family friends. We love family, even when we don't like them.

We are generally passionate people who really stand behind their beliefs whether it be that one soccer team is better than the other, how the government should be run or our faith in God.

I've always worked hard and striven for better for my children, as my parents did for me. I'm trying to instill a will and determination that compels them to strive to be the best at whatever it is that they do in life, to appreciate how important family is as a source of unconditional love and to always respect themselves, their culture and others.

I teach them tolerance because when you are Hispanic there is a chance that you have experienced some racism, and I want my girls to know that this is not about them, it's about the other person and it's usually not personal. It's usually a belief based on ignorance. So don't hurl insults back; ignore or educate them about the culture. Difference is beautiful and severely underappreciated. I want my girls to own who they are, even if it's not just like everyone else and I think that's a life lesson we could all benefit from.

How do you teach your children to be proud of their culture?

Photo credit: Hero Images/Hero Images/Getty Images
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