Deep down, I still want to learn Cantonese. My grandfather, who emigrated to the Dominican Republic in the early 60s, came from China. He quickly rebuilt and rebranded himself, assimilating his status in DR as a friendly outsider. His son, my father, is a mix of Dominican and Chinese. My mother is Dominican almost entirely. In essence, I’m 25% Chinese; two generations from the mainland; idiomatically detached.
But my last name remains Sang and my face retains Asian features. And no matter where I go and who I encounter, that ends up meaning a lot. It colors the lens with which I am interpreted; Asian name, Asian face, Asian man. The reality that I speak Spanish, that I’ve lived in Santo Domingo, that I deeply care for and identify with the United States as my birth nation and home; those are mostly additional details. Amongst Dominicans, I am usually “el chino,” a term which I take as endearing if not a tad separatistic. My first school friends were Asian; we saw each other more easily than others saw us.