I’m currently sitting in the airport waiting to take off for Budapest to embark on what has been repeatedly said is not a sightseeing excursion but a cultural immersion. Even the 24 hours in NY, which I’ve seen plenty of before, was like seeing NY through new eyes because we saw Hungarian New York, not just tourist New York. That being said, it’s especially important to me that it be a cultural immersion because I feel like I’ve been this amalgamation of half cultures my whole life; I’ve never felt Hungarian enough, Salvadorian enough, and because I was raised to have culture, I’m ironically not American enough. I’ve floated by from group to group but without any sort of anchor, one runs the risk of floating out to sea into oblivion. Everyone says roots are so important and I’m finally beginning to understand that feeling.
I spent so much of my life being Hispanic; my dad grew up in South America, my mom is Latin American, we spoke Spanish, I grew up near Mexico etc, Spanish has been ingrained in me and now I want to devote the same to my Hungarian half. So many of my friends are a combination of ten different things but none of them seem to know anything about those cultures that made them or have any sort of connection to said cultures. In a way, I feel sorry for them because the weird combination of cultures I grew up with gave me such a unique perspective and made my childhood so colorful. I couldn’t imagine not having the traditions, languages, foods that shaped me. I never want to be the girl without a past and a heritage and I hope that my children aren’t like that either. With this trip, I hope to sow the seeds of what will be a lifelong love affair with both of my cultures that I’ll be able to pass on to future generations.
As a child, Hungarian was on the periphery of my life. I never grew up speaking it, but I grew up hearing it and knowing a few factoids about Hungary. My cousins all grew up very Hungarian and now that I’m older, it feels like in a way I’ve missed out on something that is actually a huge part of who I am. However, I’m grateful that I was exposed to what I was exposed to and that I was made aware of how much a part of me it is. I hear Hungarian, and though I can’t understand it, it’s oddly comforting and it’s familiar in the same way Spanish has always been.
My family has been traced back over 500 years in Hungary, where we came from before that is unknown, but we’ve been there long enough that we’re Hungarian through and through. Hungary has such a rich and long history too that it’s so cool to know that I come from that. Regardless of how long my family was there, the Hungarian identity was so important to those that came before me, those who loved me most; they fought for it, they endured so much that I will (hopefully) never have to endure, they were heartbroken for the rest of their lives when they had to leave, and though it’s sad it means everything to me. My family name also precedes me on this trip as a lot of the organizers had worked with my family in Hungary or just know of them. It’s a little nerve wracking because I have a lot to live up to, but at the same time it makes me proud that I can call myself a part of a family of greats. Though most of those greats will not see me undertake this adventure, I know that if they were still here they would have been so proud and the “would have” is more than good enough for me.
All that being said, this isn’t a jingoistic endeavor by any means and I think it’s a very important distinction to make; I just want to be more aware of my history, where I come from and I want to do it all justice. My only hope is that I really do.