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Aimee Garcia Headshot

What does it mean to you to be Latino in America?

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Soledad O'Brien once asked me, "What does it mean to you to be Latino in America?" And, I told her that I have my feet in two cultures instead of one, and I feel very lucky.

When the Huffington Post asked me to write this blog, I was truly honored. We have an opportunity here to address the issues that affect us both as Latinos, and as Americans. We can ask for what we want, tell others our story and change the lives of those around us. The better world we create for everyone around us, the more we will enjoy our own lives and create opportunities to pursue our own dreams.

Being a Latino has given me a rich culture that I hold closer than anything to my heart, and being an American gives me the hope and assurance that with hard work anything is possible.

I plan to use my voice here to tell my story, and show that education has been key to becoming the person that I am today. Education equals choices. I have been blessed with the choice to be anything I ever wanted to be, and I truly owe my happiness to my family and education.

I am a Chicago native now living in Los Angeles. My mom was born and raised in Mexico City, and my dad was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico. I grew up in a bilingual household, speaking mostly Spanish to my mom and English to my Dad. I went to English-speaking schools and spoke English to my friends.

Growing up, I went to Mexico and Puerto Rico once a year (although in my teen years, my mom's Mexican side won out, and we ended up only going to Mexico for the holidays). I felt completely at home in Mexico - speaking Spanish to my cousins, running around Acapulco and stuffing my face with mole and homemade tortillas. Mexico opened my heart. It was my fantasy world and escape, and every time I would land at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, I would long for Mexico.

That being said, I grew up completely Americanized. I founded the Pom-Pom squad at my high school, graduated from Northwestern University, and rocked out to Madonna and Michael Jackson with my friends.

Growing up, my parents taught me not to think of myself as less-than because I was Latina. They taught me to work hard and be the absolute best. The most important gift they gave me was the gift of education. They put me in the best schools, helped me with my homework, enrolled me in dance classes and taught me fluent Spanish. And, most importantly, they taught me to work hard and not expect any hand-outs. "No one is going to work harder for you, than you," my Dad would say. I carry that message with me to this day.

For that reason, I have never felt that being Latina hindered me in Hollywood. By contrast, being Latina has opened the doors of opportunity. I wouldn't have been able to play Andy Garcia's daughter and George Lopez's niece on The George Lopez Show if I WASN'T Latina. I wouldn't have been Zach Gilford's local love interest, "Alma," on "Off the Map" if I wasn't fluent in Spanish. I don't know if I would have been a professional dancer at such an early age if I wasn't Puerto Rican - a culture where music and dance are a normal part of child's upbringing.

So, what is a Mexirican actress going to address in her blog? I'd like to write about the Latino love of family and our rich and vibrant culture.

But, I'd also love to use this platform to address what I think are the two biggest challenges facing the Latino community today: Health and Education. Our community is plagued with childhood obesity and an alarming high school drop-out rate (most high school drop outs are Latino and only 6 out of 10 Latinos graduate high school. If I can at least shed some light on these two topics, I could die happy.

So, thank you Huffington Post for the platform to discuss these topics. I look forward to the educational journey ahead with you and the readers.