The Neat and the Bittersweet

This post will be in two parts. First an update. My internship is going well. Though I still do not have my ID, I still get to help out with different projects and attend a lot of meetings. My main project is still helping out with the process of getting things ready for the renovation of Arlington House but this week Kim, my advisor, and I were more focused on preparing the house for a reenactment of the Syphax Wedding.

Kim and I sitting on the Arlington House floor dusting fake flowers.

Kim and I sitting on the Arlington House floor dusting fake flowers.

Maria Carter Syphax and Charles Syphax were slaves of the Custis-Lee family. They once belonged to Martha Washington but when she died George Washington Park Custis, grandson of Martha and father-in-law of Robert E. Lee, inherited the slaves.  The marriage of Maria and Charles was one of the three weddings held in the family parlor of Arlington House. Cool/interesting tidbit: According to the Syphax family, Maria was the daughter of George Washington Park Custis and one of his slaves. I do not have an image of the place decorated all pretty, I wish I did it is lovely right now. I do have this image, which turned out nice with the lighting. Last Friday, 6/17, I got to meet a fellow LHIP intern, Janette Gallardo, at the Historic Preservation Awards. Which was neat because I got to meet the Secretary of the Department of the Interior, Sally Jewell. This past Tuesday, 6/21, Kim, Layesanna (the Natural History curator), and I got to visit Yorktown Battlefield to go pick up a tent bag we loaned to them. This tent bag belonged to George Washington and was used during the Revolutionary War. Layesanna and I got to go into the closed off part of the exhibit and stand in the tent where George Washington held meetings. I was freaking out so hard.
George Washington's Main Meeting Tent

George Washington’s Main Meeting Tent

After that we went to have lunch in Williamsburg, which was adorable. I love colonial towns that still have a charm to them. I have come to a conclusion of colonial/historic towns: They all have Christmas Shoppes, Kilwins, and some have Ripley’s Believe It-or-Not’s. (I’m looking at you St. Augustine.)            
Stores at Williamsburg

Stores at Williamsburg


So on to the next part. For the internship all of the interns have to attend webinars. So far they focus on our role as Latinx in NPS and the greater world. I feel that this experience will help me understand my heritage; myself a little bit more. Let me explain. When I was 5 I moved to Florida from Puerto Rico. Spanish was my first language, but I quickly learned English after that by watching Barney so I have no accent like my mom. Though my parents spoke to me in Spanish I never kept up with it, so my fluency was never 100%. I am also very light skinned. The only dead give away are my two last names. People often question if I’m Russian because of my first name.

From L to R: My brother, my grandmother, and I.

From L to R: My brother, my grandmother, and I in St. Augustine, actually.

In our introductory webinar a few of the interns were talking about their family members not understanding why they would want to leave their family for a job… I never had that. My parents are very supportive of me when it comes to career decisions. While I understand not everyone grew up the same way, it still made me feel like, “oh look, another reason I don’t fit in.” I’ve often felt detached from the Latino community because I was never “Latina” enough. I once had one of my mom’s cousins tell me I should get a tan because I’m so white. My mom played it off, saying he was joking, but it still hurt. But after our last webinar I learned I was not alone in this. Many of the other interns have also experienced this discrimination in similar forms. I know that I’m Latina. I know that I use Adobo to spice everything and store my pots and pans in the oven. And while I know this to be true, most of the outside world doesn’t see that. It does help knowing I have a group that acknowledges my Latinidad, but I have come to a conclusion:

Even if I speak stunted Spanish, even if I don’t appear Latinx, even if I am not accepted by many in the Latino community, I will tell their stories. All of their stories. Mexicans, Salvadorians, Dominicans, Peruvians; I will tell their stories just as I tell the stories of other minority groups because everyone’s story matters and is interesting. The good, the bad, the grey areas of history.

These stories need to be dug up and told, and I want to help tell them.

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