By. Kaylah Cruz-Herrera
Are you Moroccan?
I get that a lot. While shopping, while getting into a taxi, while drinking tea with family friends: You look so Moroccan! It's amusing and flattering. I usually laugh and explain that my dark hair and eyes come from my Mexican heritage. But, this small idea makes me consider one big one: how much of culture goes beyond looking the part?
Imagine this: you, an American, go out dressed in full niqab (or burqa, the full face covering) and you want to buy some groceries. From your appearance, people are inevitably going to assume you are Moroccan, but, as soon as you open your mouth, they'll know you're an American. And I don't just mean the lack of Arabic skills or the heavy English accent; I mean the ideas. Who knows, maybe they'll be able to tell that you are a little different, a little foreign, just from your walk.
My host sister and I have this joke. Whenever she tells me to do something, she always says, "Obviously!" because things that appear so natural to Moroccans are actually very unnatural to me. For example, I go to the hammam (public bath) about once a week. Before, I would always carry my bathroom products in a bag and hold my towel in my hand. When my host sister saw me recently, she laughed. It was the strangest idea to her that someone would be able to know that I was going to the hammam. Obviously!!
It seems strange to me now, but when I first came to
what shocked me the most
were the similarities, not the differences. My host siblings wear Western clothes, watch
MTV and American movies, and love American music. I was expecting a world that was extremely
different from the Morocco , so when I saw a world that had a
heavy Western influence, I ignored all of the subtle distinctions that make
Morocco Morocco. United
I cannot even attempt to describe Moroccan etiquette and lifestyle. What I can talk about is how living within the Moroccan culture has made me realize my American identity.
Growing up as a person of color in the
has always meant that I felt a strong
connection to another culture. My family
always told me, "You're Mexican."
In the United
I feel a strong connection to my heritage and I feel the need to tell people
that I come from this prospective different than the American prospective. In U.S. , I feel American. When I think of all of the things that I long
for back home and when I make connections between Moroccan culture and my
culture, I'm thinking about the Morocco . United
I can't tell someone that I am Mexican.
Moroccans get confused and expect me to have extreme patriotism towards Morocco , a
country that I've never even seen. Although
I think that my family has values that are different than the typical White
household in the Mexico United States,
I have to admit that the
is very diverse and that the American culture is my culture. U.S.
has made me realize that I am American. I might have grown up in a household that
doesn't fit the Moroccan stereotypical American household, but that's the
beauty of the Morocco .
We have lots of diverse cultures, but,
somehow, we're all the same. United States
An example: despite everyone in the NSLI-Y group growing up across the
we can all sing "I'll Make a Man Out of You" from Disney's Mulan. US
It's silly, but it's something that we students, as Americans, all grew up with.
I appreciate having this experience in another country because I realized how much I love the
how much I am apart of the American society, and how much I want to work to
in the future. America