Part of this is the tension in answering people’s assumptions, expectations and yes, stereotypes that exist about what “constitutes” a Hispanic. And these assumptions come from both inside and outside the Latino community.
We spoke to three young men who have different upbringings and unique backgrounds. Yet they have one trait in common: their love for their roots, and their candor at some of the challenges they have while trying to explain their cultural identities.
Taylor Stewart’s name may not ‘sound’ Latino. Yet the 24 year old has a fascinating background that has led him cultivate his Hispanic heritage and make it a point to give back.
Taylor was born in Bar Harbor, Maine to a white, non-Latina mom and a Mexican-American dad. The family also lived in Florida for a few years when Taylor was young.
His grandfather was Juan José Ortega, a Mexican movie director in the “Golden Age” of Mexican cinema in the 50s and 60s. Taylor’s grandmother, Joanne. was a young American woman who met Ortega while she was filming one of his movies in Mexico. She was 19 and Ortega was in his mid-50s when they fell in love and eloped. She later found out he was married and had several mistresses. When she became pregnant, she went back to the U.S. and gave her baby up for adoption.
Taylor’s father, Jonathan Stewart II, was born in Boston and raised by two non-Latino white doctors in Maine, Nancy and Winston Stewart. Although Taylor’s dad grew up surrounded by the love of his adoptive family, he always felt different because he lived in a very white town; he was often bullied and ostracized by his classmates in school because of his darker skin color.
Taylor’s father hated being different from others. Being Hispanic was something that he felt more ashamed of than proud.
“Growing up listening to my dad’s story was sad because he was never able to embrace his roots,” Taylor says.
“Embracing my Hispanic background is something I owe to my dad because he never had the opportunity to do so and I did. Plus, it is a part of who I am as a person.”
Taylor’s connection with his Hispanic roots has had a huge impact in his life and has motivated him to serve his community. Currently in law school at Rutgers University in New Jersey, he works with….