Broke and fresh out of college, I didn’t know what I was getting into. The only thing I knew was that I’d be leaving La familia and, for the first time, facing the world on my own.

As a Scripps Howard Spring 2010 fellow, I interned for Hispanic Link News Service where our focus was Latino issues. At first, I welcomed the new experience because I was learning how to write and, more importantly, seeing my name in print. But as I grew more comfortable in my own abilities, there was fear that I might be isolated, known only as a Latino and nothing else.

The fear that people will peg you as one-dimensional was terrifying — especially fresh out of college when one mistake can seem like a crumbling mountain.

What does a college graduate know? Do most of us get it right away? Or are we all scared to admit that we are real-life versions of Dustin Hoffman’s The Graduate character Benjamin Braddock?

I wanted people to know that I wasn’t one-dimensional and that while I was born in another country, the American influence ran deep in my veins. I watched Saturday morning cartoons, idolized Michael Jordan, and I am not afraid to admit that when I was eight, Power Rangers ruled my life.

But after doubt and angst, I realized that my experience as an American was clashing with past cultural traditions, yielding a new sense of purpose.

Coming to the United States meant assimilating to two cultures — one not only of cheeseburgers and Disneyland but one of the Mexican-American experiences that are so rich and abundant out in the Southwest — my childhood vocabulary was Spanglishnized and turned on its head.

Not only did I have to learn American History. I also had to drop the “Vos” for “tú” and add Tapatío to one of my favorite Nicaraguan dishes, Gallo Pinto.

After a while, the Latino influence became so pervasive that I found it unnecessary to further study my own culture. I figured, “It’s what I know, let’s move on.” I quickly took interest in and knew more about Hemingway, American sports and culture than I did about Latino issues. To me everything about the American experience remained fresh, new and fascinating.

The last seven months however, have been a bit of a reawakening for me. I’ve fallen in love with everything Hispanic. Yes, it is a bit daunting that most of our issues and subjects deal with immigration, but everything in between serve as fresh reminders of where I came from, of mi origen.

For the first time ever, I’m writing Spanish articles. I extended my byline from “Luis C. Lopez” to “Luis Carlos López,” adding the accent and having my middle name spelled out: forcing everyone to roll their “R’s.” If I can get away with it, I’ll speak Spanish in mixers, interviews and events, in hopes of recapturing words that have long been lost.

The one caveat: I’ve had to see the world in color. This means that, as someone trying to voice the Latino experience, accurately and without bias, I’ve had to seek stories that unveiled truths that I overlooked because I feared the label “victim mentality.”

For a long time, I’ve firmly believed that I came here to reach for the stars and not feel sorry for mi gente or myself. However, as a bicultural individual I came to terms with my responsibility to show the rich diversity in Latinos. As I move forward, I realize identity is fluid, going from one taste to another and growing from one phase to another; but no matter how fluid the experience, my roots are as strong as ever.

I’m Nicaraguan, and no, that’s not Mexico. There are 15 other Latin-American countries, not including Cuba and other Caribbean Spanish-speaking nations south and to the east of San Diego. We are different, but with too many common nuances to draw a divide, especially when countless of us came here to make something better for ourselves. My identity out of college is one that realizes that there’s a movement — different people coming together to make the colors of the stars and stripes more diverse. I love my frijoles and tortillas but my identity and my byline runs much deeper than that.

Luis Lopez is a graduate of Arizona State and is currently a reporter for the Hispanic Link News Service. Follow him on Twitter.