Rivera: Life in Hispanic communities is more inviting

Interested candidates for summer jobs should contact Amber Mohmand at amber.mohmand@iowastatedaily.com for more details. Those interested in applying to work during the fall/spring term should contact Katherine Kealey at katherine.kealey@iowastatedaily.com. 

Interested candidates for summer jobs should contact Amber Mohmand at [email protected] for more details. Those interested in applying to work during the fall/spring term should contact Katherine Kealey at [email protected]

Daniela Rivera

I was born in Quito, Ecuador, but graduated from high school in Puerto Rico. They are two very different places and two very different environments — but both taught me so much about the culture and traditions of the Hispanic community.

It wasn’t until I ended up moving to Iowa State, though, that I realized how much I missed the little things that I took for granted back home.

I’ve always asked myself the question: why do Americans seem so reserved? I first noticed this when I went to visit a friend in Miami and when she introduced me to her friends; I immediately went in for a kiss on the cheek and a hug with everyone I met, which became really awkward when people would step back or tense up.

This has happened to me on various occasions after that, and it’s always an extremely uncomfortable situation for me. I have to try and not take it personally when someone goes out of their way to avoid all contact except verbal when greeting me.

This concept still baffles me. If I meet a new person in Ecuador and Puerto Rico, it doesn’t matter who they are: I would greet them with a kiss on the cheek or a hug (if appropriate, of course).

This is one of my favorite things about Hispanic culture — it immediately creates a comfortable environment, and you feel as though this stranger is now a new friend.

While I lived in Puerto Rico, all I dreamed about was leaving to study in the United States. I was so eager to leave, I didn’t stop to smell the roses.

My roses were made up of small acts and quirks that I took for granted; acts and quirks that, when I tell my friends here about them, they call me crazy.

For example, I couldn’t tell you how many times I would be in line at a grocery store and end up learning the life story of the person in front of me. I would always feel as though I could trust them completely.

On the other hand, I distinctly remember spending a summer at another friend’s place in the United States, and she constantly told me to stop smiling and trying to talk to everyone that passed by.

She mentioned the way I always made eye contact with strangers was dangerous. I didn’t believe her at first, but when I saw how serious she was, it made me think it isn’t fair to go around assuming the worst in people. You never know who could surprise you and become someone important in your life.

I know I can’t speak for all Americans — or for all Latinos — but simple things like telling someone “buen provecho,” (which loosely translates to “bon appetit”) when you pass by a table of people eating, no matter if they are strangers, would make me feel like I was doing my daily act of kindness.

That might seem simple and dumb, but think about how it might brighten someone’s day.

I had to adjust to the cold exterior Americans have when you first meet them; it’s still hard at times to restrain myself from being so “touchy,” and it’s those moments when I miss home the most.

I think it would be a positive development for the community if students at Iowa State were more welcoming and happy when interacting with everyone around them. By being more open and expressive, the idea of Americans being so cold and impassive could change; little by little, people from every background would feel included and welcomed.

So, don’t be alarmed if I go in for a hug upon meeting you — to me, everyone is a friend, whether they realize it or not.