Episode 008: Building A New Life In The US And Keeping A Connection To Cultural Roots

Any day now, Tamil (Puerto Rico) and Danny (Costa Rica) are expecting an “Eñito” (what we lovingly decided a baby ñ could be referred). This baby will be brought into a family rich in cultural diversity, creativity and intellect.

Both Tamil and Danny came to the United States to pursue academic careers. For both, their careers took different paths than originally planned. Tamil, passionate about her Puerto Rican roots expressed through music and dance, founded Barrio é, an organization dedicated to educating, preserving and promoting art and traditional Caribbean and Latino America music and dance. Equally passionate about leadership, business and advocacy,  Danny became the first non-voting citizen in the nation to hold public office.  (Scroll down for more on this interview)

As expecting parents of an “eñito”, Tamil wishes to provide for her child knowledge about their different cultural sides (Puerto Rican, Costa Rican and US), as well as the confidence to know that they can embrace all sides of their cultural identity and that they don’t have to assimilate into one. As a parent of an ñ, Tamil and Danny believe the most important way for culture to be passed down is to keep practicing their cultural traditions at home, speak in Spanish, dance to traditional music and let their children connect with their family, even when they are living in a different country.


Tamil: My name is Tamil Maldonado Vega.

José: My name is Jose Daniel Betata. I am going to tell you the story about how we met. I am from Costa Rica. I was born in San Jose which is the capital. I was studying at Howard University in Washington D.C but I work for Atmospheric Science Department.

Tamil: I am from Humacao, Puerto Rico. I had the opportunity to be a professor at the University of Puerto Rico in Humacao. I went to Washington D.C. to do my Ph.D. in Atmospheric Sciences.

José: I always joke with her telling her that she went down there looking for me.

Tamil: Both of my parents have been educators; my father has been a Math teacher, Spanish teacher, History teacher. My mom she study more Social Work. She has a Ph.D. on that.

José: My parents moved here because they had economic needs and they also wanted to provide  us with quality education. Through Central America, Mexico, then come to the US, it wasn’t easy. Back in Costa Rica he had one job but here he was holding triple shifts in three different jobs.

Tamil: And that was a great example for me, if you wanna do something right, you just go ahead and do it. I didn’t expect to have family here. I always thought that I was gonna be in Puerto Rico just having my family, having children that have that capability of knowing different cultures and I think that is gonna be a challenge for any parent including us. How to actually build that confidence for the children to say I belong to Puerto Rico, to Costa Rica and I belong to America, how can I do my best in the world?

José: You know, one pf the things that I do is to sing, and I didn’t start singing until I met Tamil.

Tamil: The most important way of culture to be passed down to a child, I believe, is through living your own culture at home, to talk in your language to your kids, to dance what is your traditional music and what is your dancers from your country and to expose your children to the rest of the family, that it’s not only mom and dad but they have aunts and uncles that they can reach out to and grandmothers and grandfathers.

Do you know an ñ with an amazing story? Tweet at us using #soyñ AND #beingñ so we can connect with you! Or join our private Facebook group and connect with other ñs or share your story!

Are you an ñ? Stand up and be counted! Go to our interactive ñ map!

Thanks for watching!

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