I’ve learned many of the greatest life lessons from my immigrant father. Most of which have formed me into the type of traveler and person I am today.
My father traveled out of necessity. My father was a political refugee exiled from Uruguay where he was repeatedly physically tortured by the military junta. He was 24 when he escaped in the middle of the night and began a quest on foot across the entire continent of Latin America.
His experiences were my bedtime stories, from waking up next to a python in the Amazon Rainforest to the beautiful women who helped him along the way by sneaking him food or helping him get to his next destination. I’ve always felt the need to help others like so many helped him. My sense of wanderlust was instilled by all of these stories but also the appreciation of my immense privilege to be a traveler by choice.
My father’s plight to the States from Uruguay is what developed my sense of understanding, compassion, and eagerness to get to know other vulnerable communities and ideally help share their unique stories, by elevating their voices and showing their perspectives.
I know so little about my Uruguayan roots. We are descendants of the native tribal ethnic group, Charrua. My paternal grandmother was mestizo, half native, half Spanish. There is barely any information online about this nearly extinct group of people. Also, my father can’t remember where his father was born–perhaps the Canary Islands in Spain, or maybe Argentina, or maybe Uruguay.
This has shown me how important it is to have a written history, especially amongst cultures that are at risk of fading away. I travel to learn about these histories directly from native people and share them however possible.
Growing up in an Uruguayan-American family shaped every aspect of who I am as an individual, even beyond my view of the world. Being biracial in America is no easy feat. It was especially challenging to grow up in the Midwest where there weren’t many other Latino families. As a child, I would get called a spic or be asked about when my father was coming to mow someone’s lawn. These statements never made sense to me. More often than not the kid who’d be insulting me would be the son of a White landscape designer.
My father had a very successful bicycle business. These insults had nothing to do with me or my family but everything to do with people’s perception of Latino stereotypes. Recognizing this has made me a better traveler as I can separate western ideas about a community or society and instead seek out locals to learn about their culture directly from them.
I know many little girls see their father as their hero, but mine really is my hero! Te quiero mucho Daddoo! Gracias para todo. Happy Father’s Day and 71st birthday!!!