First: Colombia is spelled with two Os.
I grew up with the pleasure of being different in the South, darker than the standard in Georgia and brief stints in Alabama & North Carolina. A theatre geek in high school and my early days at Emory, I gave some pretty substantial performances of a monologue that centered on the topic of being Hispanic in the South. It felt a bit forced -- yes, my treatment was unique, but I didn't feel any different from anyone else. Being creative and nerdy, scrappy but privileged, I always fell in line with many groups growing up. My family had struggled, but we were more than fine by the time I came-to awareness.
I was raised in suburbia, and in high school began to reach out to my Colombian roots as much as possible. My dad's family comes from Spain (family crest and all), but it wasn't as direct a connection as my mom's full upbringing in Colombia. I took to salsa and cumbia like no other, spent months in Colombia over the last decade, and can't help but perk up when I hear the familiar Colombian Spanish accent (you just can't deny that enunciation).
When you walk into one of my relatives' houses, you'll see the usual suspects in terms of Colombian paraphernalia: corner wall replicas of Pueblito Paisa, posters proudly displaying Bandeja Paisa in all its glory, and leather, gold, and emeralds strewn about. Seriously: all gold, everywhere. As an anthropologist, I learned the value of cultural preservation; acculturation over assimilation. I even had a gang of exchange students from Barcelona I latched on to so I could practice my Spanish my final two years at college.
To this day, I'm frequently asked where I'm from. I eagerly offer Georgia. Their faces drop, trying to figure out why I look the way I do, without having to ask. The question's valid, but the answer: complicated. Georgia is arguably more diverse than Colombia or Spain; we're in the melting pot/salad bowl after all, right? I'm proud of where my family's from, because it has absolutely framed by identity. However, when folks ask where I'm from, I think it's too broad considering the meat of why we aim to understand others. What's your story? Why do you like a cracked egg over rice? I prefer the questions that get to the core. Can you tell I don't love small talk?