One of the leads in the musical In the Heights is Nina Rosario, whose parents are immigrants and who is the first in her family to go to college. I connected a lot to her story and struggles, especially what she expresses in the songs Breathe and When You're Home.

There's a part in the song Breathe (about 2 minutes in) that expresses how most young Latinos I know have felt throughout their lives:

They are all counting on me to succeed
I am the one who made it out
The one who always made the grade
But maybe I should've just stayed home...
When I was a child I stayed wide awake, climbed to the highest place,
on every fire escape, restless to climb
I got every scholarship, saved every dollar
The first to go to college

And she later sings (about 3:20 into the song):
Oh, God
And what will my parents say?
Can I go in there and say
"I know that I'm letting you down..."

I know that most people feel pressure from their parents to succeed. We all have our own struggles that stand in the way of that success and feel that we are letting them down at that point. But when you grow up knowing that your parents brought you to this country specifically for that one goal -- expending thousands of dollars, countless hours and perhaps sacrificing their social standing in their native countries -- that is a weight on your shoulders of incredible measure. Doing poorly one semester, not getting that important scholarship, not graduating on time, changing your major... all of this makes you feel like you are letting your parents down in the biggest way you can.

Inevitably, we end up asking a lot of what ifs, just as Nina does in When You're Home.

There's a section of the song (about 3:25 in) where she sings:
When I was younger I'd imagine what would happen if my parents had stayed in Puerto Rico
Who would I be if I had never seen Manhattan
If I lived in Puerto Rico with my people?
My people
I feel like all my life I've tried to find the answer
Working harder, learning Spanish, learning all I can

What if my parents had never left D.R.? Would they have struggled so much in establishing their business? Would they have gone into so much debt to create a life for us? Would I be married and pregnant? Would I have a college degree? These are the questions we ask ourselves, and the questions our parents ask themselves.

But ultimately, we move on because, as my mother would say "'si hubiera' no existe" -- "'if onlys' don't exist."

UPDATE: The other posts in this series are: Paciencia y Fe and Powerless.

1 comments:

At Sun Jul 26, 12:10:00 AM Noelle said...

Hi, I'm here again! Checking in! 6 hours to go!

 

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