I remember coming home after watching Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi on the big screen. I was quiet, but as soon as I got home and put on my pj’s, I jumped on my bed and pretended to fight invisible foes with my imaginary lightsaber. I had been practicing reproducing the sound of the masterful lightsaber and by the end of the week, I had perfected it. Some kids in the neighborhood where we lived in Lima, Peru either thought it was really cool or let their fists do the talking.
That didn’t stop me. I’ve always been the “unique” person in every room I’ve entered. Nowadays because there aren’t too many spoken word artists of Peruvian heritage in the Midwest — or the U.S. — that grew up watching Mazinger Z and Ultraman, or fell in love with Lynn Minmei from Robotech, or was sucked into Transformers, or collected Dungeons & Dragons figurines, or watched My Little Pony (not a Brony, by the way), or raised the eye of Thundera with Lion-O, or geeked out every time Voltron would form, or loved it every time Saint Seiya would scream out “Dame tu fuerza! Pegaso!”
You see growing up a kid in Lima, Peru during the 80s, you had to deal with car bombs, random police raids in the neighborhood, water and electricity shortages, taking showers with buckets, and political upheaval. The only escape I had into another reality was through cartoons and video games.
I still remember that birthday when my dad walked in my room at 6:41am, turned on the light, said “Happy Birthday,” and showed me an Atari 2600. The world of video games was introduced to me on that day, and when my brother was old enough, we would both play on whatever video game system we owned at the time. My brother accentuated my interest for anime as he would expose me to things like Dragonball Z, Gundam, Cowboy Bebop, etc.
He is still influencing me from afar as he now lives in Japan and brings me gifts like these on his visits home:
My brother and I are fortunate. Even though we could not be considered middle class, our parents never deterred us from what we liked. They encouraged us. They would buy comics, Pokemon cards, and D&D figurines for us. Now that I am parent of three, I am more than willing to do the same thing for them — and a little more.
Fortunately, I was able to find a partner that is acceptable of these nerdy things. Together we have been able to share our passions with them, and it has been great seeing them decide the things they like, including Star Wars, Avengers, Legos, wrestling, comic books, Avatar, Korra, Justice League, Teen Titans, etc.
Even though I try to encourage their likes, I also try to steer them to cartoon or comics characters that represent diversity and who look like them. For me as a parent, that has probably been the toughest thing to find, but I am learning. See when I was growing up, I always wondered why there weren’t many comic book and cartoon characters that I could identify with. If by the miracle of the Pachamama they were brown, more then likely they would not portray a positive image. So when I find something, like Araña, I make sure I expose them to it.
My hope is that by exposing them to characters that look like them, we are encouraging them to create and claim their own nerdy things and know to be confident in their choices. To use their voices and be loud. Therefore building a strong generations of NOCs and NOCs-in-training.