Being Enye -A Bridge Between Two Cultures
Being Enye -A Bridge Between Two Cultures
A documentary about the stories of American born Latinos who don’t feel Latino enough or American enough.
On Monday, February 10, Latinos gathered at the Cambridge Innovation Center for a screening and discussion session of the documentary Being Enye hosted by Latinos for Education.
For filmmaker Denise Soler Cox, ñ (pronounced “en-ye) is more than just a letter of the Spanish alphabet, it represents the identity of first generation American who have parents that are from Spanish speaking counties. Enyes often do not feel Latino enough or American enough and struggle with not knowing where they belong. A feeling Soler Cox grew to know very well and chose to portray in her documentary Being Enye.
Being Enye tells the story of Soler Cox, a first generation American born to a Puerto Rican mother and a Cuban and Puerto Rican father as well as other American born Latinos. At the age of four, Soler Cox’s family moved from Bronx, New York to Westchester County. They went from living in a Latino hub to being the only Latino family in the area for years. This changed her life; she struggled fitting in in a predominantly white community where she often got picked on at school for being latina and when she would get together with her family, she often shared their thoughts that she was not Puerto Rican enough. This feeling of not belonging stuck with her for a long time until a casual night out with some friends in Miami helped her realize that she was not the only one who felt that way.
“I was hearing all of these people’s stories and I was thinking “Oh my God, I’m totally not alone”. All of these people had my sane life, they all had to deal with the same stuff I did. I was determined to do a documentary because I thought how do I get out to people? How do I share this? Because I just wanted to shout from the rooftop like “you’re not alone” “ Soler Cox explains in her documentary. That is how the idea for Being Enye was born.
The film documented the stories of latinos who faced bicultural obstacles such as being criticized for not knowing Spanish, giving up things such as food to fit in to the American culture and the struggle of chosing to move away from your family amongst other things.
“I did not make Enye for people outside of our community, I made it specifically for people in our community… Out of love for them,” said Soler Cox during the discussion session. It took her 17 years to convince herself that she was Latina enough to actually start making the film. For Soler Cox, Being Enye is more than just a documentary of her life and the lives of other American born Latinos, it is a project; stories that agitate, help heal a generation, motivate them to tell their stories and make them feel connected, feel like their not alone.
The discussion sessions at screenings are yet another part of Enye where people share a common feeling of wanting to belong. The live discussion was held for both Cambridge and Houston, Texas. After watching the documentary, an attendee watching from Houston shared an empowering poem of how she felt being an enye and how that reflected her identity. Another attendee shared the struggle of moving away for college as a first generation American and how it is often frowned upon by Latino families but he was able to find support.
“ People outside of our community never use the word betrayal, they never go to college and say they left their family “ said Soler Cox in response to his anecdote. This is one of many shared experiences among the Enye community; the feeling that doing certain things like moving away to college or accepting a job out of state is leaving your family behind.
She experienced the feeling that she was betraying her family at first hand when she decided to make the movie. Her mother chose to not talk to her for almost a year when she found out she was making the movie. In a Ted Talk, Soler makes reference to a Spanish saying “los trapos sucios se lavan en casa” (you wash your dirty laundry at home). In Being Enye, she not only told the stories of other Latinos but she told hers thus crossing a thin cultural line. She did not want to offend her family in any way, she just wanted to share her story. Soler Cox said she could have reached out herself but she chose to break that “umbilical cord” Latinos often find themselves attached to and did not reach out to her mother until she was in town filming and had a talk with her about having her in the documentary.
Soler Cox used to think that the secret to belonging was closing out. Telling her story was an important step for Soler Cox in helping her heal and accept herself. “A surprising impact I did not anticipate was me realizing that if you know my truth, you’ll still love me” said Soler Cox.
Another powerful impact that Soler Cox had was the domino effect of sharing a story; one screening after another she noticed people would come up to her and tell her their dreams and their secrets. “Those people with dreams I could hep” she explained, “Because there were cultural obstacles in my way...” Through Project Enye, today Soler Cox helps many Latinos overcome “the guilt, shame and isolation around not feeling Latina enough” as stated on her site. She has created the Self-ish Latina podcast and co-wrote and published a culturally responsive curriculum called “Own Your Enye”. Through these projects she is able to empower those with dreams. As for the people with secrets, she is able to help them by being able to talk to them about “how secrets have weighed them down” and motivate them to tell their truths.
For Soler Cox, Being Enye is more than just one documentary, it is a project that continues to grow. She is planning on continuing to tell the stories of American born Latinos and is working on a new documentary focusing on Latinos’ secrets that she hopes to have ready for some time next year.