DENVER - A locally-based documentary is trying to connect the children of Latino immigrants who may have grown up with the struggle of connecting with both an American culture and their Latino cultures.
Project Enye (ñ) was created by Denise Soler Cox and filmmaker Henry Ansbacher a few years ago. The documentary, which will be released this fall, features many Latino celebrities who share their personal stories, but the main film focuses on Denise's story.
"We moved to Westchester, to an area where we were the only Latino family in the entire town," Soler Cox said. "It's difficult because, I don't know about you, but in my family, there was a disagreement about passing on Spanish, for example. And I know that you know that there's a lot of strong feelings about people, Latinos, who call themselves Latinos but might not speak Spanish at all or as good as somebody else."
Growing up in Spanish Harlem, N.Y., Soler Cox struggled at home to be Latino enough for family because of that struggle she had speaking Spanish. At school, her classmates teased her about Latin lunch food choices. She felt she wasn't American enough either, even though her dad had made the decision to change the pronunciation of her last name, from "Soler" (soul-air) to "Solar."
"I recently had a conversation with my friend Lupe, where I was talking about bringing platanos to school. And she told me a story about she used to bring burritos to school for lunch when she told her mom she wanted a PB&J instead," she said. "Could you just imagine how many people it would affect if we just had however many people that are in our exact shoes just consider for one second letting go of that shame?"
More than a documentary, Project Enye is also a multimedia website designed for those of "Generation Ñ" to have a place to hear and share their stories.
The struggle of being the child of an immigrant may not typically be as traumatic as being an immigrant, Soler Cox said, but she added that it can still be a major struggle many Latino and children of immigrants don't even realize they're having until later in life, such as she did.
"Latinos have no right to tell anybody what someone should or shouldn't know or how to cook or dance," she said. "Because we're our worst critics. but just the part of trying to take away something that's inherent about someone that is their Latinoness. I'm sorry. It's not cool with me."
Currently, the filmmakers are attempting to map out Enye's across the country -- which they estimate to be about 16-million people -- as part of a fundraising effort.
"We're ready to reach out across the nation and really see how many Ñ's we can reach," Ansbacher said.
The filmmaker began realizing his father dealt with issues being the son of an immigrant.
"My dad's dad was born-and-raised in Germany, and he came to the U.S. and raised a family in the U.S., and I started to look at my dad's experience a little differently after connecting with Denise," Ansbacher said. "There was one comment my dad had -- it was, 'My father's been here for 20 years, you think he could've lost the accent.' And I just kind of filed that away as something my dad said but didn't really mean much."
Ansbacher also said that working on the film has really helped him evolve as a storyteller.
"As a filmmaker, you're really getting into this other person's reality and perspective and story. To effectively share that with an audience, you really have to stand with that person and really understand what's going on for them," he said. "This whole creative process that we've had, it's been really fun to take on that voice and figure out how to tell this story in the most authentic way, in Denise's own words."
Soler Cox has finally let go of much of the shame she felt growing up for not being so-called Latino or American enough, and now wants other Ñ's to let go of it as well.
"It doesn't make us any less Latino at all," she said. "I'm here, and that's a big message for Ñ is that it's actually a safe place and we actually call it 'home.'"
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