What is your name? Who are you?
“My name is Claudia Bermúdez. I was born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela. I lived there for 14 years of my life, and then I moved here six years ago. I’m 21 now, I’m a senior, [and a] Psychology major [with] Women and Gender Studies, and Immigration Studies minors.”
How do you identify?
“I used to say Hispanic just because it’s like an English word. But I like using Latina, because it’s like I can say it in Spanish.”
“Sometimes I use the little accent mark on the ‘u’ on my last name. That’s an identifier sometimes, because I know I don’t necessarily look like whatever people’s perception of a Latina woman is. I don’t really fit into it, but I still am.”
Why did you use the term ‘Hispanic’ before?
“It was mostly because I went to this like 90% white high school when I moved here. So like I just used ‘Hispanic’ because it was a word in English that people would understand.”
“Sometimes when I say words in Spanish, people are like ‘What are you saying?’ Or if I pronounce it [her name] correctly, people are like ‘What’s your name?’ So, I just have to pronounce it in English for you so you can understand. But now I’m just like ‘I am Claudia, I am Latina.’ I’m just gonna use those words, because that’s what I’m comfortable with.”
What prompted the interests in your major/minors?
“Of course immigration studies came up because of my own immigration journey. With women's studies, it’s weird. I saw this 100 class [Representations of Women], and I was like, you know what, it sounds like it’d be right up my alley. And it was! And I wanted to declare a minor right after that class, because it was so interesting. And I just love the environment, how you feel in a Women and Gender Studies class, it’s like a safe space.”
“And psych was actually because I took AP Psych in high school, just to try it out. And I really liked it. And I was like, this is just a great basis to almost anything. And I’m really fascinated by how the brain works. It’s just kind of my base. What I’m interested in is my minors, funny enough.”
How did your identity, if at all, influence your decision to pursue certain studies? Were there subjects you were more (or less) drawn to because of your identity?
“Definitely immigration studies. I didn’t even know we had an Immigration Studies minor. I was looking around and I was like, this is perfect for me. That’s kind of the field I wanna go into. I want to help immigrant communities somehow. So I’m like, this could help me in the long run, so I might as well just do it.”
“With women’s studies I kind of felt seen. There’s a lot of white perspectives in every class, and it’s just hard to get global perspectives, or other races perspectives. I definitely saw that in women’s studies classes, and I really enjoyed it. This is great, and this is more of what should be in every class. We need global perspectives, in every single field of work. So it was just really cool that I could be in an environment like that with women’s studies.”
“With psych, I feel like there’s a lot of that mostly white, straight male perspective on almost everything. And it’s hard to get out of that within the psych field.”
What does being Latina mean to you? How do you find that your identity influences how you walk in the world?
“Since I amwhite-passing, I don’t tend to think about it too much, because people don’t typically read me as Latina when they walk by. But I love to have those little identifiers [such as the ‘Viva la raza’ pin on her backpack, and stickers that say ‘Venezuela’ on her laptop]. I do like people to know who I am and how I identify, but it’s hard when [people aren’t able to say] ‘Oh yeah! I see that you have this or that.’”
“I think a lot about how I relate to other people, and if I fit into a space, which often times I don’t really feel like I fit in. Because this is not my country; this is not my culture. I grew up in a completely different culture. And I guess I’ve kind of assimilated, so I can still very much relate to people here and everything. But it’s still hard. There are still some things that I’m just completely different [in], or I just don’t understand about this culture.”
What are some of those cultural differences?
“It’s funny because yesterday I was in D.C. for the D.C. Festival for Hispanic Heritage Month, and in front of the White House, there were these people just playing floor hockey in the street! I was like ‘What are you doing?’ It was just really weird to me. In my country I guess it would have been like baseball or something Sometimes you see kids playing soccer in the street, but like hockey? What is that?”
What in your life are you proud of? Are there any accomplishments or achievements that come to mind?
“I graduated this private Catholic high school here, summa cum laude. I had the highest GPA you could have, in a second language. I struggled the first year I was here, but then I was like back on track. I was even above some of the white kids there. I used to see it as that’s just what I was supposed to do, you know. I had to immigrate, I had to go to a school in English --- that’s fine, that’s normal. A lot of people in my life remind me ‘Wow that’s bada**! How did you do that?’ And I did not have ESL classes at all, I was just by myself on my own, little help. I did have help from my dad, but then the topics start to get more intricate. It was definitely not the way that people taught in my country, so it was just a lot of layers there to rise up. But I feel like I was able to.”
November 05, 2019