What is a label?
In our work, we use the term Enye (ñ) to describe the experience of first generation American born Latinos with at least one parent from a Spanish speaking country. When we share this term, people’s reactions span various degrees from “I’m an ñ, that’s fantastic!” to “Why are you using yet another label to classify and possibly disempower Latinos?” and every other possible reaction in between.
Have you ever been asked “What are you?”
I can remember as a little girl constantly being asked this question mostly because they saw my family and if they were different cups of café con leche varying in strength (color), I would certainly have been the leche hold the café. I found “What are you?” to be a loaded question and after a while, I began to use the term “earthling” as my pat answer.
I knew if I said Puerto Rican, people would challenge me because I wasn’t born on La Isla or didn’t look brown enough to be Puerto Rican. If I said American, those who questioned me would insist that I must have “something else” in me.
At Project Enye (ñ), we use the term Enye (ñ) to describe what it felt (feels and will forever feel like) to know the subtle nuances of living in two worlds at the same time. An Enye (ñ) innately knows what it’s like to not feel 100% American or 100% Mexicana, Puertoriqueña, Colombiana, etc. In other words, “ni de aqui o de alla.”
An Enye (ñ) feels a nostalgic bond to the land their family is from, but they also know they will never feel connected to that country as deeply as their parents do. An Enye (ñ) may or may not speak Spanish, but they do understand another cultural language. An Enye (ñ) knows how to “turn on and “turn off” their Latin@-ness and effortlessly intertwine themselves into the American fabric.
Do you walk in these zapatos?
When I first heard the Enye (ñ) term description on the radio, it was like a chorus of truth was singing in my ear – “Yes! I shouted! That’s me!” It was such an incredible relief to know that although I’d grown up as a part of Generation X, I loved (and still love) the Breakfast Club and Bon Jovi. But I also love parrandas, pig roasts and have a million memories of spending the day at Luquillo Beach eating bacalaitos fritos and drinking malta after a long day swimming.
Is Enye (ñ) a label or not? Honestly, only you can answer that.
I personally don’t define Enye (ñ) as a label. For me, it gave a name to “a feeling” that I have felt everyday of my life – the feeling that “I’m not quite Puerto Rican enough for my Puerto Rican side and I’m not quite American enough for my American side.”
Enye (ñ) set me free.
All those feelings of “not enough” on both sides gradually faded away and something new emerged. Something whole. Something that wasn’t a part of something else, but something new altogether. I was finally a thing. I had something that described my experience beyond what was available at the time. Enye (ñ) healed me and I wanted that feeling for as many other people in the world who felt that same in-between angst I lived with for so long.
I let the shame and burden about how Latina I was or wasn’t stop defining me. Por fin, I, Denise Soler Cox, was enough. And so are you!
I’m not sure what to call that moment of lightness, but I regard it as the moment I realized that my life’s work would include using the term Enye (ñ) to empower and heal a generation.
So call it what you will. Call it a label, a feeling, a term or whatever. It doesn’t bother me. As long as the end result is the same. You belong.