Born and Bred in the Bronx: Meet Freshman Rower Tatiyana Benitez

Tatiyana Benitez, a freshman on the women’s rowing team, talked about how growing up in the Bronx shaped her into the athlete she is today.

The Quadrangle: What was it like growing up in the Bronx?

Tatiyana Benitez: “Growing up in the Bronx, you are very cultured. Anywhere you go there is always someone outside, there are always people playing music, there are always people playing on the streets, there are always stores around like bodegas or regular delis. I guess being here now it doesn’t feel different, but being around people from [Manhattan College] who come from different places, I’m like, ‘oh wow, you don’t really know what it’s like to grow up in the Bronx.’ For them this is different but for me it’s the same and it’s always been the same.”

TQ: What does the Bronx mean to you?

TB: “It’s home. No matter where I’m going I always know the Bronx is home.”

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Freshman rower Tatiyana Benitez, decided to stay in her hometown for college because of the opportunities but especially the fact that the Bronx is her home. GOJASPERS / COURTESY

TQ: Why did you chose to stay in the Bronx?

TB: “At first, I really wanted to go away. I was like ‘yeah I need to get away, I’m so sick of New York and I’m so sick of the city.’ But then I went to visit a lot of CUNYs and private schools upstate and I realized everything was really different and that was not somewhere where I wanted to be. I knew I wanted to stay here and be around somewhere that I’m used to because it’s home. It’s always going to be there, I can go visit somewhere else but it will never be the same.”

TQ: What is the most common stereotype of the Bronx?

TB: “Probably ghetto. Definitely. Of course, wherever you go everywhere has that certain type of name like ‘oh this is ghetto’ or ‘it’s this or it’s that,’ but the Bronx is definitely not ghetto. It’s different of course especially if you are coming from anywhere outside of New York, but it’s not ghetto.”

TQ: How would you tackle that statement?

TB: “I’d take them to my avenue and take them to where I am from. I’m not really from what they would call the ghetto. I would take them to Riverdale, like right here, this is an amazing neighborhood. It depends on where you go and how you take it on.”

TQ: How did growing up in the Bronx influence you in terms of your sport?

TB: “Where I grew up I didn’t have this. I got into rowing in college. I never really had sports growing up, we were always playing outside or going to the park, it was never really a set sport. When I got to high school I was introduced to my best friend Amayda and she started rowing in middle school and continued in high school and she is what got me into it and I started rowing in college.”

TQ: How does your cultural mindset from growing up in the Bronx influence your everyday life?

TB: “Honestly, as you grow older where you come from is always going to be with you. You are always going to know that as the first thing you learned. And growing up now I know certain things especially living in the Bronx now, I know if I were to live somewhere else I would take that with me and decide how I’m going to be around certain people and in certain places I go.”

TQ: How does that play into your sports?

TB: “We’re from the Bronx, we are always hefty, we are always competitive. It’s a New York thing I guess.”

TQ: How does the diversity of the Bronx affect you?

TB: “I’m Puerto Rican and Ecuadorian and where I used to live by Pelham Parkway, there were a lot of Albanians and now where I live on the other side of Van Cortlandt, there are a lot of Hispanics there so it depends on where you go. You would think there are cliques or something, but everyone is so welcoming everywhere I would go. I’ve lived in a lot of places in the Bronx so wherever I went there were always different ethnic backgrounds, so it never felt like it was too much of Hispanics versus non-Hispanics. It was always mixed.”