Discovering My Family’s Peruvian Culture as an American Citizen (United Together)


Valentina Arias, Multimedia Photo Editor

To this day, my parents say that leaving their family and loved ones in Perú was one of the hardest decisions they had to make. They left everything that was familiar and safe. My father initiated the move to the United States after he had his first daughter in Perú. He realized he wanted to give any future children a better life with more opportunities. He decided that in 2000, he would move his family to the state where both of his brothers had already moved: Florida. 

Once my parents and sister successfully moved to the United States, they settled down in a small apartment in Miami where they would raise my two sisters and me. 

Growing up in an exclusively Spanish-speaking household, my childhood was far different than that of all the other kids I know. While they were used to seeing peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in their lunch boxes, I was used to seeing lomo saltado in mine. I never understood why many experiences I had were different from many of my peers. I was happy with the childhood I was given but at the same time felt so isolated. 

When I asked my parents about this, they told me that everything they did was part of my Peruvian culture. They said that no matter where they are, their culture and what they are accustomed to will always follow. That is why we celebrate Christmas on Dec. 24, open presents at midnight, dance marinera and eat caldo de gallina. 

Once I reached an age where my parents decided it was suitable for me to travel, I traveled to Perú with my sister. I stayed with my aunts and uncles in the apartment complex that they all shared. Throughout this experience, I realized how beautiful my family’s culture was and why my parents had spoken so highly of Perú all that time. 

When I returned, I told my parents about everything I had seen and they were delighted to see that I now knew more about my culture. I spoke about all the new foods I was introduced to and all the places in Perú I had seen. After talking about everything with them, I gave them the gifts I had brought back from Perú: cherimoyas and granadillas, my parents’ favorite fruits that are not available in the U.S.

Traveling and seeing all of Perú established the foundation of my knowledge of my family’s Peruvian culture. I still visit every now and then to learn more. Introducing me to my Peruvian culture is one of the greatest gifts my parents could have possibly given me and I will always be extremely grateful for it.