About forty three years ago I left Spain, where I was born and raised to come to Venezuela. Upon my arrival in Caracas, I became good friends with an American from a traditional Protestant family in Ohio. She used to say: "María, you are so nice! You do not seem Spanish at all." Her meaning was clear, obviously being Spanish or Latin American was not something to be proud of, something backward at best.
However, rather than feeling slighted when, time after time she praised me for my lack of "Spanish traits", I felt proud, as if I was finally growing into a person worthy of respect and admiration. Her sentiments echoed those of my father, who fought in the Spanish Civil War on the Republican side and emigrated to Venezuela in the early fifties. Despite his profound loathing for the victorious Franco regime, he left me and my sister in Spain, because, paradoxically, he felt we would have a better education there than in Venezuela. The message in his letters was always: "You are Venezuelans now. Forget Spain."
This left us in a kind of limbo: we were not to be Spanish, even though we were growing up in Spain, but at the same time, we were to look on our adopted country as a place of extreme beauty but unfit to educate his two young ladies.