Keeping your roots

The importance of being connected to your culture


I pulled my embellished white blouse over my head along with my blue vest that would be tied together with red ribbon. My beautiful, long skirt that fans out with the wind. My blonde Latvian hair was being put into braids. My mother pinned metal and crystal brooches onto my clothing and latched together an amber necklace around my neck.

All of these pieces, the ones that had been passed down and worn for generations, I wore proudly. I knew that I was making my family, my ancestors and my community proud. 

I have done this before and continued to practice this ritual that has been going on for lifetimes before me. I feel that having a culture is an important connection, and I am grateful to be able to embrace one. I love and appreciate having a culture that I can celebrate and a family where I can do the same.

After my grandmother had immigrated to the U.S., she made sure to keep her traditions and culture from Latvia a part of her new life. From her to my mother to me, the tradition has continued, with a great thanks to the Latvian Community Center. 

I remember spending almost every Saturday there. We spent hours of the day singing, dancing, talking and learning. All Latvian.

It molded me into who I am today and has been a huge part of my life. I have been provided with a multitude of opportunities such as multiple International Dance Festivals and being included in the National Archives for a dancing video.

According to Family Search, knowing one’s cultural background and where one comes from helps us develop a strong sense of who we are and our core identity.

As I have grown up, I have been able to more openly share my heritage with others. I have brought friends to Jāņi celebrations, taught people dances along with songs and have conversed with strangers over traditions.

My heritage not only helps me and others close to me, but it also helps the world as a whole. By spreading my culture, I can create more tolerance, even if it’s just a small amount every day. 

Cultural intolerance is a huge problem in our current world and has been an issue for centuries. We all have different cultures, heritage and other aspects of our lives that set us apart from each other. 

However, by sharing and showing the beauty of one’s heritage with others, progress can be made.

I still remember an encounter with a stranger at the most recent Jāņi festival. She had walked up to my sister and me, admiring our dresses and commenting on our folk costumes. This woman had talked with us for at least 15 minutes, leaving happy with a photo of our clothing along with having learned more about our culture.

Reflecting on that encounter, I have also learned a great deal about an abundance of other cultures.

I like to think that I can make this world better and more accepting through my roots. Even if it is just enjoying piragi or ābolu kūkas with others.

I am not who I would be today with my Latvian roots. It is a part of me, and I will forever be grateful for my connection to them.