Mitra Sumara: What does it mean to be Iranian?


I love every single interview we get to do. But with each one, I’ve walked in with some sort of background on ‘who’ and listened to the story of ‘how.’ With Yvette Perez, the founding member of Mitra Sumara, I didn’t know ‘who’ ‘how’ or ‘why’, and by the end of the interview, I felt like I had taken so much away from the experience that I forgot why I had even asked questions in the first place. Her answers brought to mind so many more questions about culture, identity and the idea of “being.”  What does it mean to be Iranian? And how do you decide who gets to “claim it”?

There’s so much to take in with Yvette’s story, and her relationship to Music and Iran. 

She is a bit of everything, but I’d love for her to claim her Iranian culture– because she is doing greater things with it than you can even imagine!



MITRA SUMARA in action

MITRA SUMARA in action

– So I have to say, when I saw your name -Yvette Perez- I was a bit confused. Tell me about yourself:

I’m half-Iranian, my other half is a mix of North European, American Indian. I was adopted by American parents, who divorced when I was 2. My mother remarried a Mexican, so she gave me his name– and so I grew up with the Spanish surname.

– And where’d you grow up?

I grew up in Carson, a suburb of LA. It was kinda odd growing up there… large Chicano, Black, and Filipino population. My neighborhood was predominantly first-generation, so ethnicity was important. And I really felt like an outsider… My hair was frizzy and I didn’t look like anybody else at school.

– Many of us with cultural conflicts experience some sort of ‘identity crisis.’  How do you think yours was similar/different?

Well it was peculiar being in school when the Revolution happened, kids would taunt me, and my mother at home would tell me “don’t tell anyone you’re Iranian.” And I’d think– but that’s what I am?

So, while I knew I was Iranian, I didn’t really know what that meant.


My mother did not explore the culture much. I had discovered these old Persian records from the library, and I remember the one time I brought them home, she danced around the house, making fun of it. It was mortifying!

I found my birth mother when I was in college, and she gave me my father’s name (who is from Tehran). I found him a few years ago and we’ve built a strong relationship since then. I have found that my father and I are alike in spirit and some personality characteristics despite that fact that I didn’t grow up with him. Whenever we are together and notice these synchronicities –  it’s amazing. A true testament to the strength of one’s roots and genetic background.

In terms of my ethnic background; I feel that I’m in disguise. If I didn’t grow up with the culture, how can I claim it as mine? [Read more…]

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