Rena Yuzon was born and raised in Michigan. She was graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Art History from Wayne State University and a Master of Arts degree in Education from the University of Michigan. Rena currently works as the Course Manager of the Liberal Arts, Social Sciences and Public Safety Training Complex disciplines in the Distance Learning office.
Hispanic Heritage Month means many different things to me. It is certainly an opportunity to learn, celebrate and engage in the rich and varied histories and cultures of Hispanic communities. It also offers an opportunity to look at identity in all its nuance.
I am a biracial woman who identifies as Hispanic. I was born to a white mother and a Hispanic father. I am a third-generation American on both sides. I was raised in a predominately white suburban community. I learned about my culture as all do – from my family, holidays, birthdays, weddings, funerals and the like. As I grew up, I heard a multitude of narratives about my ethnic and racial identity. I straddled two communities, always searching for my place in them.
In high school, I learned about the immense reach and influence of the Spanish Empire across the world. Through family tree projects, I got to learn about the early Latin American diaspora and how migration affected my own family. In college, I learned the details of the Spanish colonization of the Americas and the impacts on the indigenous and enslaved people and how new identifies were forced and shaped. These lessons helped me understand the significance of personal identity and allowed me to get more comfortable in my own.
After graduate school, I married a first-generation Filipino-American. Through this, I got to learn more about the Hispanic dimensions of Filipino history and culture, since the Philippines was a Spanish colony for more than 300 years. Now, we have a multiracial son named Diego. I’m excited to help him find his own identity in all this nuance.
As I was considering what to write about for Hispanic Heritage Month, I listened to Painting by Numbers, an interesting episode from the podcast Code Switch. One of the things that became clear to me was that I am far from the only one grappling with these issues of identity. My greatest hope for the Schoolcraft College community, metropolitan Detroit, the state of Michigan, and the country as a whole, is to understand that each one of us carries a unique, layered and fluid identity worthy of respect and dignity. My life’s work is to cultivate this understanding through teaching and learning. I’ve continued to pursue this work during my time at Schoolcraft College with many wonderful faculty and staff. I am proud of the hard work we’ve done together and look forward to continuing the work toward a more diverse and inclusive community.