Latin Lessons
8/5/2014
If Latin America is in your ancestral past, you'll find it's easier than you think to track your heritage. Here's how to get started finding your Hispanic roots.

When I first met my father-in-law, a Colombian-bom doctor living in the chilly Midwest, I sensed in him a feeling of longing. It was as if, although Rafael had spent the last 30 years of his life in Ohio, raised a family and enjoyed a career here, something intangible was missing. Was it the 12 brothers and sisters he left in Bogota? Probably, but more than that, Rafael misses the family history and culture he's left behind.

Immigration brings an inherent desire and momentum for what's ahead. Immigration also kindles an equally dyed-in-the-wool longing for what's left behind. When people take risks to establish a life in a new country, they can experience great benefits. As the descendants of immigrants to the New World, all Central, North and South Americans share in those benefits — more land, more opportunity. But culturally, there's always a sense of loss — what was it like? Where did our great-great-grandparents come from? Was Spanish life bad, or just boring? Did your parents suffer political upheaval in Peru, or were they simply adventurous?