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The University of Michigan SAQ – Prompt:

Everyone belongs to many different communities and/or groups defined by (among other things) shared geography, religion, ethnicity, income, cuisine, interest, race, ideology, or intellectual heritage. Choose one of the communities to which you belong, and describe that community and your place within it. (300-word maximum)

I have been performing on a stage for the majority of my life. However, during my preparation for a performance of “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina” from Evita, I struggled to deliver an emotional rendition.

Knowing that the performance would not be complete without genuine passion, my father relayed to me the origin of the name Argentina. In 1572, Martin del Barco Centenera, a relative of my grandmother, was a part of the Spanish exploration team that discovered a beautiful land in South America lined with silver fields. As a Spanish priest, he followed the exploration in the Argentine with both courage and faith. Upon his return to Spain, he wrote a poem so inspiring that it was used by King Philip to name the country.

Understanding my family’s history allowed me to identify with the song and enabled me to deliver the passionate performance I was missing.

Consequently, I was able to forge an emotional connection with my Spanish roots. I have since spent summers at my ancestral home in Madrid. I remember our first visit. My four great aunts got into a light-hearted flamenco competition as they vied for the title of “most skilled dancer”, while my uncle tossed paella in a large skillet over an open flame.

Though I had just met these relatives at the time, the familiarity and sense of belonging I felt was immediate. After we had gorged ourselves on traditional cuisine, and had determined the winner of the flamenco competition, I was invited to sing in Spanish, surrounded by my new extended family.

I will always feel a sense of pride for my cultural heritage, which has given me a new perspective on how one’s history can tie them to the past while keeping them grounded in the present.

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