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The “Flan Incident” + Your Best Tips on Bringing Your Latinidad To Work

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For as long as I can remember, my mother’s flan has been a sacred dish in my family.

My own daughters prefer her flan over my own. #truestory

Even my husband, the #gringocowboy, brags how he could easily eat his own body weight in my mom’s flan – it’s that good.

When I was in 4th grade my class had an assignment… bring your family’s favorite dish to share at a school-wide potluck dinner.

It was a no-brainer. I would bring my Mom’s flan because I knew it was a winner.

But shockingly, the most requested dish at any and all family events, the single dish that puts a smile on everyone’s face when it’s walked through the threshold of every door and placed gently onto a cleared refrigerator rack so it maintains a perfect temperature, the dessert I’ve never had two pieces of because there was never anything left for seconds…

…was totally ignored.

It sat lifeless on a table next to homemade cookies, cakes, rice crispy treats with m&m’s smooshed into the tops of every perfectly cut square and brownies galore.

Everything was being devoured except for her flan which began to lose its stiff shape after hitting room temperature and was practically melting into the caramel that she spent so much time perfecting to get it “just right.”

Earlier in the evening, I’d showcased it to my friends whose faces winced and eyebrows contorted as they pointed to it asking “What’s that?” remarking that it looked “disgusting.”

That day I experienced one of my earliest “breaks in belonging.”

What is a break in belonging?

A break in belonging is when you think you belong to a certain group, but then there’s “an incident.” ie what happened with the flan.

Something happens that makes you start to believe you are not really part of that group.

That night my Puerto Rican pride turned to embarrassment, then to confusion, and then morphed once again to shame.

As a nine-year-old Latina, I suddenly had this realization that what we cherished and valued in my home, in my cultura was literally gross to them.

Remember that I was 9 but even at 19, 29 even 39 the feeling of what happened that night could bring me to tears. It still hurt well into my adult life and although in many ways it could be considered insignificant, the compound effect of similar things contributed to a very real feeling that I didn’t belong… anywhere.

What I’ve learned over the last several years is that millions of Latinos are dying a cultural “death of a thousand paper cuts.”

  • They have breaks in belonging over being shamed about their Spanish (from our own community!)…
  • They have breaks in belonging over not acting or feeling Latino-enough or American-enough…
  • They have breaks in belonging over not feeling comfortable bringing their full Latinidad to work – and who can blame them?

But there is good news! All is not lost.

There are simple steps you can take to reclaim your Latinidad.

If you like music 🎵 , try something with music or dance so you can begin building a fun connection back to your Latinidad.

Maybe you love tracing the history of family names…why not create a family tree using #ancestryresearch or connecting with a genealogist to start understanding your personal history.

The main thing is to choose something simple, that brings joy and grounds you in your culture.

You know what?

You could even make a flan!

What’s your favorite way of connecting back to your culture and what’s your BEST advice on how you can do that at work?

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