People of Mexico
Gabriela y Carlota
I was always told that traveling would provide me with a certain understanding about life, that it would make me aware of how the world works. Experiencing other people’s realities would provide me with the gift of perspective, which one day would help me to understand my purpose in life.
Growing up in Mexico came with a set of skills that were included in the experience. One of those skills developed because of my family. I was born with the ability to adapt quickly to any environment. My father, until this day, has a fascination to host and meet people from other places on the planet -doctors, academics, scientists, and friends will be regularly sighted at my parents table or enjoying a “carne asada” under our big avocado tree in the garden. Being exposed so young to so many cultures, accents, and people, made me curious to make my own discoveries and at the same time to grow up with a lack of a sense of attachment to where I was born. I wanted to explore the world as soon as possible; now one thing is to go on a vacation and another quite different one is to stay indefinitely.
When I moved to Chicago, I was attending college as part of the International Program of my degree. I was able to meet students from all over the world; it was one of the most enriching experiences of my life. After I finished school and when I started working, one of the things I kept noticing was that the majority of Mexicans I knew at that point kept a tight inner circle, which consisted mostly Spanish speaking friends. Do not take me wrong, being able to speak Spanish with others when you have so many years of your life living outside of your country feels amazing; there is a sense of complicity and connection that pumps happiness into every conversation.
Because of the curiosity I packed in my bags when I moved from Mexico, it was easy for me to include in my own inner circle people whose first language was not Spanish, who did not think like me, or were familiar with anything I knew so far. It really has been a very humbling learning experience, that has allowed me to get to know myself better outside of my comfort zone and to meet extraordinary people who have given me their friendships and most of all, a completely different perspective.
Story of my life: I found myself falling in love with a man from Arizona with an absolute pride of the place he was born and who had never traveled outside of his country except once to a beach in Mexico. I studied in high school that opposites always attract, and I am sure our story together has something to do with physics. Two quite different people in life experiences decided to be together and have a family.
Here is when things got interesting - after we welcomed our daughter, there was a fair number of moments when we looked at each other with intrigued eyes, like, what are we doing? But the most important and delicate subject we never thought to discuss before was: how are we raising this girl being born in the US and having a Latina mama with a Mexican heritage?
And so, my struggle begins. Would she ever know she is part of one of the most wonderful, colorful, exciting, and mystic cultures? Should I write a diary? Am I doing a fair job mixing both cultures? Does she even look like me? Is she Mexican or American? I started to think that if I were gone, who would be able to tell her about her mom and her Mexican heritage? Why doesn’t she speak Spanish??
First things first. I had to calm down, which I never enjoy much! I realized I was putting too much pressure on myself, trying not to “lose” without being able to see that was not the case. First of all, I had to recognize that this was not a unique situation - there are plenty of families with different cultural backgrounds that are able to live both heritages with harmony. And that was the key to me, harmony can exist if you let things flow naturally or at least try.
4 years now has passed, naturally my anxiety comes and goes as life events keep happening, but one thing I have come to realize is that she is already exposed to two different worlds, she wins no matter what. For now, my cooking, books, songs, family pictures and stories are part of the little seeds I am gently planting in her, hoping one day she will be interested when she is old enough, to wonder and explore with me her Mexican heritage. In the meantime, I keep singing to her, in Spanish, my favorite songs, I add spices to our food, I speak with my sisters often, and I celebrate with her most holidays and traditions I did when I was young.
As I am growing with her as a mom, I have come to the realization that at the end of the day, what matters really is that she is loved. Love has all to do with wanting to belong, which gives us a strong sense of who we are and how important it is to know where we come from. Also, life can get a little more exciting if you add some spices to it in the meantime.