Perfect for fans of Fresh Off the Boat’s situational humor and Jane the Virgin’s celebration of Latinidad, Definitely Hispanic is a collection of introspective memoiristic essays by social media influencer and viral phenomenon LeJuan James about growing up Hispanic in the US.
LeJuan James loves being Hispanic. But growing up in the United States to immigrant parents, he quickly noticed that their house rules and traditions didn’t always match up with his friends’. The result was a lifetime of laugh-out-loud relatable content for his videos. After half a decade of reenacting his experiences online, LeJuan is taking a closer look at everything he loves about his family’s culture.
Definitely Hispanic is a collection of heartfelt memoiristic essays that explores the themes LeJuan touches upon in his videos and celebrates the values and traditions being kept alive by Hispanic parents raising US–born children. He shares anecdotes about discovering the differences between his and his friends’ households, demystifies “La Pela” (the Spanking), explains the vital role women play in Hispanic families, and pays reverence to universal cultural truths like food is love and music is in Hispanics’ DNA.
From #Home, where he talks about how his family moved back and forth between the United States and Puerto Rico until settling in Orlando, FL, to #TheHouse, when he was finally able to buy his parents the home they deserve thanks to his online success; this wide-ranging collection of essays will resonate with fans of all ages who feel like they straddle the line between two (or more) cultures, languages, and/or identities.
Definitely Hispanic INTRODUCTION I’ve always loved making people laugh. And five years ago, I was blessed to discover that I could actually make people laugh and create a positive impact on their lives for a living by re-creating scenes based on my experiences growing up Hispanic in the United States. Everything from my childhood is so vivid—I can feel it, touch it, smell it. I close my eyes and can transport myself to when I was a kid following (or breaking) our strict house rules; dancing and arguing with my loving, fierce, and selfless mom; listening attentively to my kindhearted, tenacious, and caring dad; looking up to, admiring, and competing with my smart and passionate big sister; playing and becoming best friends with my beloved little brother; and hanging out with my dear, wise, and compassionate abuela. Those joyous, colorful, and sometimes dramatic memories are so strong and present in my mind that bringing them to life in my videos is only natural to me.
I am incredibly proud of being Hispanic. Everything that we represent as a community and as a people is rooted in our love for life, our respect for others, and our compassion and empathy. Our households are much sterner than those of other cultures surrounding us, and although I suffered through it as a kid, I now understand that it is because our parents are looking out for us, teaching us important life lessons on a day-to-day basis because they simply want the best for us. From the outside, our homes may look like small dictatorships, but to us it’s normal, it’s our way of life. Some people may not get it, but every act of discipline, every rule, every lesson, every hug, every laugh molds us into better human beings, arming us with the tools we need to succeed in every chapter of our lives.
When I was living in my first apartment in a dodgy part of town, I never imagined that the short-form videos I was creating for fun would go viral and open this new and unexpected door in my journey. To be able to share my Hispanic heritage and each of these stages of my life with my viewers through these videos on different platforms and to make an impact on their lives is absolutely amazing. I get to showcase our culture and explore snippets of our reality not only to make you laugh and reminisce but also to keep our culture and traditions alive for future generations. And now I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to dive deeper into this exploration with this book.
I never really sat down to talk about and analyze our way of life at such a profound level before, but by doing so I have come to realize that I am not only proud but honored to be Hispanic. We see and experience life from our own unique perspective. Our tangible excitement and celebratory impulses when something goes well in our lives; our hotheaded and passionate reactions when facing roadblocks; our deep love and respect for the elders in our families and communities; the way we always look out for each other and extend a helping hand or a plate of food to anyone in need—each and every piece of the puzzle that makes us Hispanics, Latinos, Latinas, Latinx (or whatever label you prefer to use) is absolute and pure magic.
That’s also why people from different Latin American countries can watch my videos and laugh wholeheartedly, because we’ve all been there. Those skits reflect our childhoods, and I hope that these pages will reflect our loud, expressive, and affectionate hearts. This book isn’t about my videos, although you will be able to clearly see where some of the inspiration for them came from. This is a reflection on what makes us tick, and it is also me opening up to you—sharing my story, my thoughts, my perspective—so that we can go beyond my skits and travel down memory lane together, and through all the ups and downs and laugh-out-loud moments that come with being Hispanic in the United States.
I hope that no matter how old or young you may be, you too will be able to relate to the range of emotions in these pages and at long last understand that at some point in our growing up, we all thought our parents were nuts. We are all puzzled by some of our customs, rules, and disciplinary actions. And regardless of what Latin American country we may come from, we all share a common upbringing. Yes, we each have our own slang, specific traditions, and nuances, but we were raised on the same basic set of principles, an underlying and unifying thread sewn throughout our lands that bands us together.
So when you’re getting yelled at as a kid, when you’re getting a chancla thrown over your head, when you’re doing chores on the weekend when you’d rather be playing videogames, when you suffer a pela for not following the rules, when you wish you were old enough to leave home, remember this: it all comes from pure, unconditional, and almighty love. Your parents love you, have faith in you, and want the best for you. We are a united front. Each Latin American country beyond our own is part of our extended family, sharing similar struggles and celebrations, and an unbreakable bond. We’re loud and we’re going to embarrass you. We may seem like we care too much, but it’s never enough, because we love hard, we take pride in our families, and we will do everything in our power to make sure everyone in our circle is looked after. We aren’t crazy, we’re just Hispanic! Read on, enjoy, and use the hashtag titles to share some of your own personal stories and anecdotes on social media about these topics that are such key parts of the fabric of our glorious community.
LeJuan James is a bicultural and bilingual social media influencer, comedian, and content creator, sharing weekly videos about growing up Hispanic in the US. He lives in Orlando, FL with his girlfriend Camila and their dogs Yoda and Luke. Definitely Hispanic is his first book.