Before I started college, I never realized how much of an impact Latinx food had in my sense of identity. Then again, I couldn't even proudly declare myself as Latina back then.

Growing up as a third generation Latina was challenging because I felt like a fraud. I didn't see myself as incredibly confident and sexy like the stereotypical Latina you see on television. I didn't know almost any Spanish and I couldn’t even roll my tongue.

In all honesty, the only feature I thought I had to be considered Latina was the color of my skin. It felt like I was stuck trying to figure out who I am or who I want to be. Thankfully, I have learned since then that I am not defined by anybody’s definition of Latina.

But I once struggled to figure out who I was and what my cultural heritage meant to me. I could have given up and denounce myself of my Latinx heritage—but I knew that it would be a shame to throw away something so beautiful.

It was only when I started college and moved into an on-campus dorm (where any legit Mexican restaurants in town were too far for me to walk to) that my adventure to self-discovery began. 

I couldn’t stand most of the food from the various cafeterias on campus and I started to crave Latinx food more and more each day. However, since I couldn't drive and the closest thing to Mexican food was the Chipotle by campus, I could only suffer until the next time I visited home. There, the first thing I would do was beg for my mom to take me to the closest taquería.

It was on one of my weekends back home that I realized that even though my family was pretty assimilated, we still had maintained a large part of our culture through food. Growing up, Sunday mornings were marked by us going to my grandparent's home to feast on barbacoa and carnitas, and it was a common occurrence for my mom and I to sip on coffee and eat pan dulces while watching late-night television.

These were small, but meaningful things that inspired me to reconnect with my heritage. The next year I moved into my first apartment—where I had an actual kitchen (unlike in my dorm hall)—and subsequently gained free reign to cook on my own.

I began making the simple dishes that I had learned growing up, like arroz con leche. As time passed, and making chilaquiles for breakfast became a weekly ritual, I gained a strong sense in myself as a proud Latina while teaching myself how to make a range of other Latinx dishes.

Allyssa Garcia

Since then, I’ve begun to take even more steps towards embracing my Latinx background—such as actually learning Spanish. I still can't roll my tongue, and I tend to confuse tengo hombre (I have a man) with tengo hambre (I'm hungry) but I'll get there someday. And I know that if there is one thing that I can turn to when I'm struggling with myself,  it's Latinx food. And I know I can sit down with a glass of horchata and some tacos al pastor and find myself again.

#SpoonTip: Featured photo: 'el tacos de la chingona' by Itzel Alejandra Martinez, Latina multimedia artist and photojournalist.