The intersection of identities in “Being ñ”

(Denise Soler Cox filmed the documentary “Being ñ” to discuss Latino Americans and the intersection of identities they experience. Courtesy of Project Enye (ñ))

A screening of the film “Being ñ” was hosted in the McCarthy Center Forum by Sean Huddleston, chief diversity and inclusion officer, Chon’tel Washington, director of the Center for Inclusive Excellence and sophomore Kevin Peña.

“It focuses on the importance on the intersection of identity. So, while they certainly talk about Latino culture, anybody who finds themselves having to navigate two different cultures can really benefit from seeing this movie,” said Huddleston.

In the film, Denise Soler Cox describes how at times she found herself not being “Latina enough” or “American enough.” Inspired to share her story, she became passionate about sharing her experiences with others and created the film “Being ñ” with Henry Ansbacher, a four-time Emmy Award winner and Academy Award nominee for producing films and T.V. series.

Soler Cox described eneyes as “a group of people 16 million strong and growing, found stuck between two worlds, because they were born in the U.S. from parents of a Latino country.”

Her brother and childhood friend spoke about how they “stuck out” in their largely-white neighborhood and felt ostracized. Soler Cox also said she was bullied in middle school for being Latina and was consistently called racial slurs.

Once she graduated college, Soler Cox went to Miami, and said she found a lot of people had similar stories as she did. She added it was “refreshing to walk into a room where they didn’t know my past but they knew how to pronounce my last name.”

Soler Cox added, “The pain I had lived with defines first-generation American-born Latinos.”

While filming for the project, Soler Cox became emotional when describing how she felt growing up. She said her mother “had a hard time with the ñ project, but my struggle is not her fault. It took me a long time to figure out who I am.”

Along with other high-profile Latino American actors, poets, singers and activists, Soler Cox interviewed popular actor Luis Guzman who spoke about his own experiences as a Puerto Rican ñ.

Guzman said it is important to take the time to talk about the sort of experiences enyes have.

Many of the people interviewed for this project said they felt self-conscious about not knowing Spanish completely or well enough, and they feel as if they failed to pass their language on to their kids.

After the film screening was over, students spoke in small groups about where they feel they belong and their responses to the film.

An audience member said she visited the Dominican Republic when she was 10 years old. “When I went back three years later, I didn’t know how to communicate and my behavior changed.”

Washington said that although she isn’t Latina, she identified with the struggles enyes spoke about in the film.

“I feel like I straddle myself in multiple worlds. … Sometimes I can be with family and feel isolated because I went to college. I’m like the ‘white person,’” said Washington.

Freshman Julio Lanzo said he feels more connected to his Puerto Rican roots because of his family and friends, and bonding over things like food and culture.

Peña said when he visits the Dominican Republic, where his parents are from, people see him as “that ‘American kid’ and when I’m here I’m just a kid from the DR.”

He added, “I just felt like I could really relate to the topic because I actually identify as an ñ. … I could tell you stories for days but you won’t necessarily believe me, but to have thousands of people saying the same thing, it’s hard to ignore it at that point. I feel like I just wanted to get it out there.”

Huddleston said in life and society, no matter whether you are Latina or Latino, everyone will face similar issues, and he encouraged students to take this time to explore who they are.

“I thought this was a good conversation because even though they were talking about the nexus between Latino and American, it applies to anybody that feels like they have to straddle the fence between two different identities,” he said.