I have no short answer to the question “Where are you from?”

I have no short answer to the question "Where are you from?"

© NastyaSensei Sens

Most of the time, when I meet someone new, they always ask, “So, where are you from?”
Seems like an easy question, no? But for many of us the answer isn´t so simple. We can’t just say Iowa, or Cuba, or Buenos Aires. We can’t just say Kentucky.

Ever since I was a kid I’ve had a hard time answering that question, which usually ranks third after what’s your name? And, what do you do? Those two aren´t easy for me to answer either!

The question is not where were you born, or what’s your citizenship. It’s “where are you from?” For multicultural people, this can become a complicated issue because we’re not from one place and neither are our parents.

I’m not sure where I’m from.

I was born in the Dominican Republic, but if I say I’m from the DR it might be misleading. Yes, I was born there, but we left when I was two years old. I have no family or emotional connection to the DR. When my parents were forced out of Haiti by then Dictator Francois Duvalier, they moved to the Dominican Republic. But still, only my mother is Haitian. My father is from New Zealand!

So where am I from? Haiti, New Zealand or the Dominican Republic?

I would rather be from Mexico. I love Mexico. I grew up there, but I’m not a Mexican national. Still, if I had my choice, I would be from Mexico. I have a terrible, suffering nostalgia for Mexico. México lindo y querido.

Also read: What being Hispanic or Latino means to me

I have no short answer to the question "Where are you from?"

© Porapak Apichodilok

Ah, but I’m also an American citizen. I took the oath back in the early ’90’s. As much as I love the U.S., it’s not the same for me. With Mexico, it’s about el corazón. There’s something inside that keeps pulling me back. I dream of Mexico. And sometimes I dream of Cuba. But I’m not Cuban. I haven’t lived in Cuba and have no relatives there. I did visit the island enough times to know its magic. Sometimes I dream of a rainy day along the Malecón and the smell of a garlic and diesel and the ocean, and I sigh.

So where am I from?

If it were up to me, I would be from all those places. I would be Haitian. I would embrace my mother’s culture and the poetry that’s organic to Creole. I would accept my father’s land and do the Hakah with my cousins while we watch the All Blacks play rugby. I would dig the DR and sit outside a colmado drinking cold Presidente beer, and swing my hips to a loud Merengue. But no matter what I decide, I will always cry with the Mariachis.

Phillippe Diederich

Phillippe Diederich is a bilingual author and photographer born in the Dominican Republic and raised in Mexico City and Miami. His photography has appeared in The New York Times, Time magazine, U.S. News and World Report and other national publications. Phillippe's novels Sofrito and Playing for the Devil's Fire are both published by Cinco Puntos Press. He is the recipient of a PEN/Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship and the Editor-in-Chief of Viva Fifty!