We all have our own unique stories of who we are and where we came from, what makes one unique and what aspect of life make them cultural, identity who they are (Kroeber & Kluckhohn, 1952). Culture is determined by so many things. Some of which include ethnicity, language, history and religion (Cushner, McClelland, & Safford, 2006). The aspect of my life that makes me identify who I am is my upbringing. My name is Jennifer Gesualdo. I was born on January 14, 1981, at 3:30 pm in Roosevelt Hospital in midtown Manhattan. My mother Clara DeJesus Gesualdo and my father Leonel Gesualdo were both born in the Dominican Republic. My maternal grandmother came to the United States for a better life, while migrating to the United States my grandmother left behind her two children: my mother and my aunt so she could get well established. My grandmother was married twice. Her first husband who is my grandfather died when my grandmother was seven months pregnant with my mother, and my aunt was about 3 to 4 years old.
While in the states my grandmother married her second husband and she gave birth to my uncles and aunts, a total of 5 children; two male and three female. My grandmother ended up raising five children on her own after the divorced with my step-grandfather. My grandmother worked in a factory, went to school to learn English and also went to beauty school. My grandmother was strong, and she beat the statistic of a single mother. My aunts, uncles and my mother are very successful and have never been in trouble with the law. When my mother came here as a child around eight years old, she didnt want to come to the US, but she had no choice. My mother was put in school, and she mastered the English language well. She speaks without any accent, and you wouldnt believe she was not born here.
My mother and father met when they were 15 and 16 respectively. They got married at 18 and have been together ever since. My mother was able to obtain her HS Diploma while married and pregnant. She was also able to obtain her Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education. My mother continued her study after having my brother and sister. She was able to obtain two masters degrees; one in Childhood Education and the other in Urban Studies. My father, on the other hand, is a different story altogether. He came to The United States when he was about 13 years old with my grandfather. He only has a high school diploma. My fathers focus was to work and save money. He aimed at bringing his mother, my grandmother, to the US once he got older. My dad came here with my uncle. My grandfather and my grandmother divorced before he came to the United States.
Socializing agents are what help us to acquire the specific skills, values, attitudes and knowledge. Family, school, peer groups and media are different types of socialising agents with family being the most powerful in my cultural learning process (Hess, 1994). My family is very religious; we follow the Catholic Church. My grandmothers, aunts and mother have taught us, my siblings and cousins, the importance of loving God and how religion is important in our family and culture. Growing up with both my parents was not easy because of the expectation especially when they are natives of this country. They were very strict but also lenient at the same time. Education is essential in my family, and my mother has always said that getting an education is my weapon and no one can take that away from me. I have always been in Catholic school all my life and later went to public school which was a very different from what I was used to. I hated going to public school, and I begged my parents to take me back to a private school, but at the time my dad was laid off from work.
Music was a big part of my culture. My father and mother danced all the time and had taught me how to dance. It was a big part of being Dominican, together with the food and the culture. In the culture learning process, a person identifies oneself in a manner that can be termed as broad according to ones physical and social attributes. I call myself an Afro-Latina or Afro-Dominican which means that I identify with my African roots and my Latin roots. My Latin culture is part of me; the music, food and religion and family. My family is essential to me it is part of my identity; who I am and where I come from. I am a mother of a 16 yr. old boy who is now in a Catholic High school, the same way I went to Catholic school. I didnt get to go to a Catholic high school, but I made sure my son did. I became a single mother at the age of 20 and just like my mother; I made it my business to finish school. I was able to obtain my Associate Degree in Early Childhood and BS in Childhood, and now I am in school for my Master in Special Education. My goal is to get my PhD.
Even though I am a single parent, I had a lot of support in the Spanish culture. Family is everything, and the help and support they give you is one of the most important aspects of life. I contribute to a lot of my family traits when it comes to language, dancing, food and knowing my history. Spanish was my first language even though I was born in the states. I always believed if you dont know the language then you are not Latina/o. I was wrong. Once I had my son I talked to him in Spanish and English but English became more dominant. While in High school I didnt have a lot of friends but when I did they would always question my identity because I was Latina and dark skinned. I was not able to call myself black because to some people I was just Latina, and I couldnt relate with the African American community because I was Afro-Latina., I then started to travel and I went backpacking in central America this was the best trip I have ever been to. Not only does it teach you other countrys cultures but you also get to meet the people and learn from them. I visited Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.
While in Guatemala I met Mayans which was incredible because I thought they were gone but they still here to this day. The Mayan speak Spanish but there are many different Mayan languages like Crystalinks., Qhuche, Cakchiquel, Kekchi, and Mam the Mayans in Guatemala speak both Crystalinks and other dialects. They have schools where the children go and learn the language to keep their culture alive; the clothing is very difficult to keep wearing because they are more expensive to buy than western clothing. While travelling the world, I have learnt to be a better teacher. This will help me open my perspective of cultural differences in different part of the world (Cushner, 1992). Travel makes me think about how I can respect other cultures and how I can learn from my students so I can make them comfortable in the classroom. When you learn about the world you are learning new ideas on how you can incorporate those idea in reality, showing pictures to my students to the places I went can open up a new wide of perspective in the world , not just what you see on but to from pictures from me as their teacher.
I believe teachers should travel more so that they can be more culturally diverse.
Cushner, K. (1992). Human Diversity in Education: An Integrative Approach. McGraw-Hill, Princeton Road, Hightstown, NJ 08520..
Cushner, K., McClelland, A., & Safford, P. (2006). Human Diversity in education: an Integrative approach. New York: McGrawHill: Kent State University.
Hess, J. D. (1994). The Whole World Guide to Culture Learning. Intercultural Press, Inc., PO Box 700, Yarmouth, ME 04096..Kroeber, A. L., & Kluckhohn, C. (1952). Culture: A critical review of concepts and definitions. Papers. Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology, Harvard University.
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