There are so many things that I can list that make up my identity. Being a first generation child, growing up with a single mom, coming from a low socioeconomic background – and beating all those odds by getting scholarships into private schooling. However, the sole thing that stands out in the midst of all these things is my identity as an Afro-Latina. I remember being younger and looking at the light skin and straight hair my mother and sister possessed and comparing it to my darker skin and kinky hair. I was stuck in this gray area of not knowing where I belonged. How could I fit in with the Latinos when I had to do so much to prove my being Latina? How do I fit in with the black community when I could not even embrace my blackness? Thankfully the turning point on how I viewed myself came quickly by the end of high school where I truly learned more about both my heritages and embraced them as part of who I am.
Towards the end of my sophomore year of college I knew I wanted to study abroad in a Spanish speaking country and signed up to go to Costa Rica with SFS. Being here has made me realize a lot of prominent things about race that are different from what I dealt with as a little girl. With the exception of maybe two or three students the rest of the group for the Costa Rica Fall Semester Program are all white. I am the only student with African descent. I’m sure people of color from the U.S. are just as concerned for the environment but where does this isolation stem from? Might it be due to the fact that ethnic people –like slaves and the immigrants of today – were historically are stuck doing agricultural jobs that make them miserable? Or is it this privilege-fueled romanticized image of sustainability and living a simplistic life style? These questions are not meant to be generalizations since sustainability is a topic that should not have a race, age, gender, or social construct attached to it – period. Being in Costa Rica has given me the privilege to learn about the environment both hands on and in the classroom. It has boosted my Latina heritage and pride. It has shown me that people of color from the U.S. have to show face for environmental issues no matter how much we want to dissociate from the past. Costa Rica has taught me it is my right as a HUMAN to live in a planet that is healthy and sustainable.