Raising Isabela Ñusta

There is no manual for being Peruvian—it's all about exposure and practice

There is no greater responsibility in this world than nurturing your children. This is something I think about constantly as a father to a young daughter.

I’m an immigrant parent of Peruvian heritage living in New York City and I have embraced history and literature as a means of educating my daughter about her Peruvian heritage.

My wife, a Nuyorican, and I have chosen to teach our daughter what it means to be Peruvian, Puerto Rican and Latina, in addition to her other multiple identities -a young girl, Americana, a student, an indigenous member of the Andean region.

When it came to naming our child, we decided that her first name would be Isabela, after the town my wife lived in in Puerto Rico. Her middle name is Ñusta, which is the indigenous Quechua word for “princess”. In effect, we wanted Isabela Ñusta to always remember her diverse cultural heritages.

Language, history, and art, as well as music and cuisine, played a critical part in shaping who we are. So my wife and I put emphasis on these to teach our daughter. Our home is reflective of both our cultures. Puerto Rican rice and beans serve as the base of most of our dishes. We speak Spanish at home and we also read to her in Spanish on a regular basis. The Peruvian flag, the Puerto Rican flag and “Old Glory” are on display in our home during the summer months. Colorful artwork hangs on our living room wall: an indigenous Andean marketplace as well as the picturesque streets of Colonial San Juan.

We speak to our daughter about Incan and Taino history and mythology. We’ve taught her about the historical significance of Machu Picchu and the Incan Empire; and about how she is part of the greater Native American communities, be they Aztec, Mayan, Yanomani, Iroquois, Apache or Taino. We’ve used YouTube to watch folk dances and to listen to Afro-Peruvian and pan flute music.

We dance to salsa at home. We’ve traveled to Puerto Rico, so she knows that side of the family very well and we hope to travel to Perú one day to visit my extended family and tour the country.

The entire process is challenging but also a lot of fun at the same time. I am also grateful for it in another way: Isabela is learning about culture through exposure and practice. And in making her aware of her heritage, my wife and I have, in turn, strengthened our pride in our identities.