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What Disneyland Means To A First Generation Latina

For as long as I could remember, the name Disney surrounded me. In what I watched, in what I wore, and even in how I spent my day outside of school. My sister and I would sit and watch Herbie movies or the latest re-release that my mom bought on VHS. My mother and grandparents were huge Disney fans, and they would often spend hours watching the same movies right alongside us. Every year, like clockwork, my family went to Disneyland.

The First Disneyland Trip- Fall 1979. Little Me!

Disneyland is the happiest place on earth, and I knew how lucky I was that we were less than an hour’s drive away. The characters, the parades, the rides…the magic. It was probably the only time my sister and I would get along (well, for at least a few hours anyway). But there was something else about it, too. It wasn’t just us kids that felt that magic. I saw it in my mother’s eyes, and in my grandparents smiles. Disneyland stood for so much more.

My family immigrated from Peru to the United States in the late 60′s. My mom was about 8 years old, and my grandparents were just entering their forties. It was a brand new world and everything was unfamiliar and different. Everything except Disney. My grandparents would tell me stories of going to the movie theater and paying pennies to see Mickey Mouse stories and staying there for hours until their parents came searching for them. They passed down their love of Disney to their four children, and my mom still can vividly recount to me the very first time she saw Fantasia back in Peru. Disney was comfort…Disney was home.

My daughter’s first Disney visit at 20 months old. 2009

Disneyland opened a year after my grandparents had their first child, my uncle, and by the time my mom was five, she and her siblings knew all about Disneyland. In their house in rural Peru, just outside of Lima, they would imagine what a day at Disneyland would be. They talked about what it looked like inside, what characters they would meet, and plan their days just based on newspaper or magazines pictures they had found. It was a place of dreams and a promise of things that only their imagination could lead them.

Just before my 1st birthday, almost a decade after moving to the United States, was the very first time they all set foot inside Disneyland. It became our annual tradition, a place where we would go as a family and be united in wonder. Now that I am a parent, I take my daughter to Disneyland as much as I can. Because now I know what Disneyland meant to my grandparents, and to my mom and aunt and uncles. Disneyland is a place where who we once were as children will always live and a gateway to who we can be. It’s a place of hope, for ourselves, and our children. It’s a passport to live among magic for a day because Disneyland, just like the United States, is the land where dreams can come true.

The new generation- my nephew and Sofia December 2012

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