What Hispanic Heritage Month Means to this Latina Mom of White Sons #TXLatinoBlog Hop
“Your life is so different from mine.” I was a young adult when my mother shared that thought with me. We were having a conversation in the kitchen of her house, the house I grew up in, about the next phase of my life. I dreamily described a life of writing and telling stories and collecting bylines. I wanted to go to graduate school for journalism several states away and then traipse off to wherever the work would take me.
It must have all sounded to strange to my mother who married young, had me in her mid-twenties and is far more pragmatic than I ever was. In my mid-twenties, marriage, motherhood and the like were not even on my radar. At the time, I felt no pull to stay near family and be a traditional dutiful daughter. In that one moment, the difference between her life and mine must have seemed so stark, and the distance between us vast and growing.
Now that I am a mom, I’m watching my own children grow into unique individuals so different from me. My oldest is a Minecraft-obsessed techie, a math whiz and a Star Wars fan. His natural facility with anything digital and all forms of gadgets is a far cry from my girlhood spent with non-electronic playthings and my nose in books. My youngest is only a few weeks old, but is already showing signs of being his own strong-willed (and vocal!) person. Both seem independent and headstrong and far more privileged than I ever was growing up Mexican American in South Texas. They are also white.
Technically, I am white, too. That’s the box I have to check on all sorts of paperwork that ask me to identify my race. Then, I’ll check the Hispanic/Latino box, if it’s offered. I’m white on a technicality, but I don’t feel white, others don’t perceive me as white, and I can’t pass.
To identify as white is to deny my indigenous-ness, tan complexion, wiry hair, sturdy frame, my history and heritage. I am the granddaughter of immigrants and the daughter of hard-working first generation parents. As a child, I visited family in Mexico, went to misa, cleaned frijoles for lunch, and danced Mexican folklorico. As an adult, I chose to focus on telling Latino stories as a profession. I am fluent in Spanglish.
White is what I am, but it’s not who I am. But it is, in part, who my children are. I met and fell in love with my husband, who is made of strong Midwestern stock and whose heritage is that classic American mix of a little-bit-of-everything European. My children inherited my husband’s pale complexion and light brown hair. They carry his Germanic sounding last name. Their eyes are light.
My children are every bit Caucasian American as they are Mexican American, and my challenge as their mother is to honor both sides and make sure they are as well versed in one heritage as they are the other. My wish is for them to navigate both worlds seamlessly because they belong to both fully.
For me, and perhaps for many Latina moms of mixed children, Hispanic Heritage Month serves as a yearly reminder to check in on that goal.
I wonder whether they are as in touch with their Latin roots as they could be. Have I told them about their great grandfather who brought his family across the border and established new roots in Texas? Do they know the story of their great grandmother who was a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse in Mexico? Did I ever mention that when I was sick as a girl, my abuelita would cure me with an egg and a prayer? I’ll share my stories and show them who I am, so they may better know who they are. There’s no better time to tell them than now, during this month when our culture is celebrated and the attention is largely positive.
As we all know, when national focus shifts to American Latinos, the conversation isn’t always uplifting. When leading political figures scapegoat Mexican Americans and nasty rhetoric flies left and right, my worry is that my children will choose not to identify as Latino or Mexican American because they don’t have to.
My children’s lives will be so different from mine in so many ways. They may not necessarily look Latino, and sometimes others may not considered them to be Latinos. But as long as I am their mother, I will encourage them to know, deep down in their hearts, that they are.
Texas Latino Bloggers Hispanic Heritage Month Blog Hop
This post is a part of the #TXLatinoBlog Hispanic Heritage Month Blog Hop. Visit the bloggers listed below as we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month together/juntos! Follow the hashtag #TXLatinoBlog on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, too.
Que Means What – Being Latina Enough – Wednesday, 9/14
MexiMoments – Importance of Learning the Language as a Child – Thursday, 9/15
The Social Butterfly Gal – Mentoring Young Latinas – Friday, 9/16
Juan of Words – Mexican-American Culture – Monday, 9/19
Sweet Life– Food Recipes – Tuesday, 9/20
The Optimistic Heathen – Sharing Our Heritage with the Kids – Wednesday, 9/21
Modern Tejana – How to Live Your Latinidad in Mixed-Race Families – Thursday, 9/22
The Esposa Experience – Navigating the Pressures of Traditional Esposa Expectations – Friday, 9/23
The Nueva Latina – Mexican Independence Day in Guadalajara – Saturday, 9/24
FitFunAnd.com – Self-Reflection and Latino Outdoors – Sunday, 9/25
VodkaGirlATX – Latin-Inspired Cocktails – Monday, 9/26
Momma of Dos – How Mexican I grew up! – Tuesday, 9/27
Family Love in My City – Immigration – Wednesday, 9/28
Creative Meli – Basic and Healthy Latin Cooking – Thursday, 9/29
Mejorando Mi Hogar – Being Latino or Hispanic – Friday, 9/30
Power to Prevail – Body Shame in Latino Culture – Monday, 10/3
Teatrolatinegro – Latin@ Theatre Show in Houston – Tuesday, 10/4
Candypo – Being a Latino Military Spouse – Wednesday, 10/5
Coppelia Marie – Am I a Bad Latina Mom? – Thursday, 10/6
The Restaurant Fanatic – Cocina Latina – Friday, 10/7
Haute in Texas – Mothering Latinas When You’re Not a Latina – Monday, 10/10