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Fort Worth Star-Telegram

I Am Hispanic This Is How I Am, This Is Where I Came From


October 13, 2002
Copyright © 2002 Fort Worth Star-Telegram Staff Writer. All rights reserved. 

From the dark skins of people from the Caribbean's Dominican Republic to the alabaster tones of European Venezuelans, and all the hues of copper in between, the Hispanic culture is a quilt of color, culture and tradition, the roots of which can be traced to Europe, Africa and the Americas.

The word "Hispanic" brings to mind explosions of color, passionate music, a strong spirit of family, a devotion to culinary delights, and other dynamic expressions of culture.

A multiethnic melting pot and fusion of many countries, Latinos are a diverse group bound together by a common language, though even that link is far from universal, with many third-generation Hispanics unable to speak their grandparents' native tongue.

Still, there is a common bond among Hispanics, even if it is hard to pin down. Perhaps it's as simple as this: a vitality that shines.

Dulce Isalguez Parker, 52, Dominican cultural teacher

"It's not about the color of our skin, but about the custom and tradition and family values that is connected with the African culture," says Dulce Isalguez Parker, a native of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

A Garland resident for the past 24 years, Parker left her country at age 12 to seek a better life in the United States. She now has an education company called Making Connections. One of the programs -- La Cultura Cura (Culture Cures) -- helps parents and children of all backgrounds embrace their cultural heritage and roots.

She frequently returns to Santo Domingo, where she and her husband still have a home.

Eric Serrano, 50, below, and Julio Brito, 39; Puerto Rican and Cuban musicians

Eric Serrano, born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, and raised in New York City, said his heritage has confused some people in the past.

"I bumped into this guy, I think it was in Austin, and I tell him I'm Puerto Rican and he tells me, 'Puerto Rican? What is that? It sounds like some kind of malt liquor.' "

Serrano, a bass player, and his friend Julio Brito, a Cuban pianist, are putting together a Latin-based jazz band called Caribbean Breeze. Brito, who lived in Havana until he was 20, has music in his blood.

"I was born in Cuba, but I consider myself an American," he said. But being Cuban has its perks: "I like my skin because I don't have to get a suntan, you know; it's all natural, baby."

Donis Armando Centeno, 35, Honduran soccer player

For a Honduran soccer player, adjusting to life in Fort Worth wasn't easy.

"It was very difficult, the different language and different cultures," Donis Centeno said.

But he learned quickly to appreciate many things about the United States, especially when it came to his passion.

"The field here in the U.S. is very good. In Honduras, it's more difficult to get soccer shoes, uniforms, soccer balls."

Centeno, 35, started playing soccer (futbol in Spanish) when he was 6 in Sava, Honduras. He now plays with the Honduran soccer league in Fort Worth.

"On this team, they call me viejito," he said. "It means old man. See, I got gray hair."

Selah Evangelina Tejada, 15, Mexican-American girl

"I consider myself Hispanic, but I'm also an American."

For second-generation Mexican-American Selah Tejada, life is a blending of two cultures. Last month, Selah celebrated her quinceanera -- an important Mexican "coming out" for girls.

"There are many cultures who have traditions like sweet 16 and bar mitzvah, and for us it's quinceanera," she said. "A lot of my friends are very interested in my culture."

For the event, family came from as far as Piedras Negras, where her mother's family lives. The togetherness is fun for Selah.

"All our family comes together and all the stories start coming back, and I just love hearing them over and over again."

Dionecia and Logan Pulido, Mexican great-grandmother, 91, and great-granddaughter, 11

She's young, but already she can make enchiladas, carne asada, rice and tamales -- staples of her Mexican culture.

Logan Pulido is a third-generation Mexican-American who has grown up with the culinary legacy of her great-grandmother, Dionecia Pulido, founder of Pulido's Restaurant.

Dionecia Pulido is from Jalisco, Mexico, "where the pretty women are from," she said coyly. She still works five days a week from 9 until noon making tamales for Pulido's, just as she has been doing since 1966. She wants Logan to learn more Spanish, because "it is important for her to keep her tradition," she said in Spanish.

Jairelbhi Furlong, 26, and George Furlong, 30; Venezuelan and Argentinian tango dancers

Her light eyes and light skin can be deceiving, but Jairelbhi Furlong is Hispanic. A native of Caracas, Venezuela, she has lived in Texas since 1992 and was shocked that many people in Texas assume all Hispanics are from Mexico.

"Somebody asked me where I was from and I said, 'Well, I'm from Venezuela,' and they said, 'What part of Mexico is that?' and, my God, I said, 'It's actually down in South America, it's not in Mexico.' "

She and her husband, George Furlong, are members of Tango Argentino Dallas. He was born in New Jersey to Argentine parents but grew up in Argentina, where he still has family.

"Technically I'm American, but I'm Argentine by heart," he said. "But I wouldn't give up this country for anything."

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