By Esmeralda Hernandez
Ask a Swainsboro resident what living there is like, and they’ll most likely tell you something similar. Small-town living almost seems like a monolith in that there’s only so much you can experience (although this is a positive aspect in its own right). Still, there are a variety aspects to Swainsboro that can only be unlocked through our own cultural and personal upbringing. I find that my version of Swainsboro is unique and hope that others can look for their own version to love and cherish
For me, growing up in Swainsboro was going to the Kwik Shop and grabbing a Coke and a bag of chips, but it was also going to a Mexican store and buying Jumex mango juice and a bag of duros wheels. It was going to school and reading and writing in English and then going home and speaking my first language. It was going to Church where the Homily was given in Spanish, and having cultural celebrations in Spanish that none of my friends from school knew a lot about. I was able to have the best of both worlds, and I like to believe I am a product of this socialization.
In the same way, I struggled in perfectly combining my two ‘worlds’. I did not know English fluently until age five, finding myself learning to crawl when the other kids could already run. There were cultural differences that didn’t translate, such as the time I found myself explaining the Tooth Fairy to my loved ones (there is a mouse version, El Ratón Perez). Still, I find those experiences integral to my growth as a person.
Just as I had a particular experience growing up in Swainsboro, I’m sure many people can relate through the lens of their own culture and lifestyle. I bring this topic to light not only to fulfill my desire to tell a story, but to request something as well. Recently, I read a text for my Spanish literature class in college where we debated the word ‘tolerance’. It seems easy to only tolerate differences and leave it at that, but I do hope each of us can find it in ourselves to not only tolerate, but accept differences, cultural or not. Acceptance of who I am from others is the reason I have so many memories to look back on fondly. I often think about people in my community who supported me as I was at the time and helped me grow in my journey of mending the gap in my cross-cultural upbringing. I can only hope that I can do the same for others.