Most of the time we don’t even notice. The fact that together we are a bicultural pair in an interracial marriage doesn’t faze us. We deal with life as it comes. Our differences only made apparent when we are not together. Or when we are recounting stories of our younger lives. It’s possible that our almost 10 years together has made us indifferent nowadays. I do remember that in the beginning it was all we talked about.
Part of the problem, my mom said at some point, was that white people were always on time. They didn’t like to be late. If you are Hispanic, however, it is inherent that you will rarely be on time for anything. After being together a few years, I started griping to my family about being late all the time. Funny thing is, I would like to think I have improved but don’t think I’ve managed to be on time for anything other than job interviews, and medical appointments. Unfortunately, I’m positive lateness is in my genes.
On Saturday mornings my mom (I think all Hispanic moms did this) used to clue us in to start cleaning by playing her Mexican regional music on our stereo system as loudly as possible. We listened to people like: Christian Castro, Joan Sebastian, Juan Gabriel, Los Tigres del Norte, or Banda el Recodo. As soon as the first song came on it was game time – start cleaning! Each of the kids had a task to do. At the time my brothers were too young so it was mostly my sister and I. She would get to clean the living room, dining room, and hallway. I would need to clean the stairs, landing, the bathroom and sort the laundry. (Mind you, she is two years younger than me and we were full on house cleaners!) We would switch chores every other Saturday.
Now that I’m grown-up with my own kids I still have that habit. The difference is when I decide it’s time to clean on a weekend, and I start blaring my Mexican music, my husband just looks at me like I’m a weirdo (lol!). Had he been Hispanic he wouldn’t even bat a lash. Sometimes it’s American classic rock, or Lana del Rey, Muse, John Mayer, Emeli Sande, Young the giant, etc, – yet he still looks at me, while I’m dancing and doing the dishes, like I’m crazy. He’s learned to just let me be but I think he has unconsciously clued into the cleaning routine. I’ve made my mark. (I did learn later that listening to music while cleaning isn’t only a Hispanic thing; however, blaring the music loudly enough for your neighbors to hear definitely is.)
Comparatively, there have been things he’s done that make no sense to me or that I’ve been fascinated with. Notably, my introduction to movies or film. He is a movie aficionado. He studied theater before he settled with being an IT professional. His family is just as invested. There was a time, before we dated when we went on a lunch “date”. I made the mistake of asking him about his favorite movies. He started naming and quoting and mentioning and I just tuned it all out. There was not a single thing he mentioned that I recognized. I was aghast and stupefied. It would be a long time before I would ask him anything related to actors, or movies, directors or theater. (A really long time! LOL)
Nowadays he makes it his mission to “educate” me. We’ve gone through moves from directors like The Wachowskis (Matrix, V for Vendetta), The Coen Brothers (Fargo, The Big Lebowski, No Country for Old Men), Steven Soderbergh (Erin Brockovich, Ocean’s 11), Luc Besson (Leon: The Professional, The Fifth Element) John Woo, Peter Jackson, plus many others. He’s shown me movies like Boondock Saints, Chocolat, and many others. The list of movies he’s shown me is endless; likewise, is the list he wants me to see… Long gone is the time when I was hesitant to ask about his movie preferences. Now I just sit back, listen, and enjoy!
Here’s a particularly sensitive difference between White culture and Hispanic culture: birthday cards, thank you cards, Christmas cards, birth announcements. Just, why? In my opinion, it’s overkill. If you are close to the person and the event being celebrated then why is it necessary to send a card? It’s a waste of money, it usually gets tossed in the garbage (after the obligatory few months on the fridge).
I feel it’s “sensitive” because all kinds of people have different opinions of them. My husband’s family adores them. My mother-in-law doesn’t expect them from us anymore, lol. However, if I didn’t send one in the past (I use the twins as an excuse now, sorry busy!), I could feel the oppression coming at me from a mile a way with the “oh, we didn’t get your birth announcement. When was he born?” (you know damn well – you got the text) or the “you guys didn’t do Christmas cards – but they are so fun!” (no they’re not, just a chore). This wasn’t necessarily from my family anymore but from friends or relatives we didn’t see often. Maybe this makes me a Grinch (or lazy) but I just can’t.
The ones that irk me the most are thank you cards (writing them, not receiving them!). If I attended your birthday party, or whatever celebration, and I gave you a gift, then chances are you already thanked me for it. Why would you need to thank me again? I applaud you for having the time management skills that I don’t have! However, if I didn’t attend the event and I sent a gift, it’s a gift. I don’t expect a thank you. I expect you will hopefully love and enjoy what I gifted. So simple. I’m positive that the next time we meet you’ll probably thank me anyway (I have awesome friends like that). Or if YOU attended my celebration and gave ME a gift I will definitely be thanking you for it at the event.
I’ve found it to be a chore to have to write and send them out. Nowadays, I can get away with not writing them because I have a legit excuse: twins and a toddler (my oldest is getting up there with the needing constant attention too…).
When you look at my side of the family, then you’ll notice our fridges aren’t covered in Christmas cards and birth announcements. It’s typical at Hispanic celebratory events to have a receiving line for gifts or to expect a verbal thank you from the hostess at an event. You CANNOT get away with not talking to Tio Carlos about his new venture, or Tia Consuelo about how her family is doing – it’s just rude. So, eventually, during the conversation rounds you are bound by blood and law to say thank you for whatever gift they gave you. And that is that. No written thank you cards in the mail to be sent later – more like backtalk and scolding if you don’t say it then.
Same goes for birth announcements – you are expected to know these events are happening and usually obligated to go visit. You bring your welcoming gift (not the baby shower gift) and hang out with the family. Help them do the dishes or change diapers or hold the baby while they get to feel like a normal human for a bit. You are expected to KNOW and beg for forgiveness if you didn’t. It would be a shame for you to be out of touch with your own family. It’s both a blessing and a curse – to know what is going on with everyone ALL the time.
So, what’s my husband’s view of this topic? Meh. He’s appreciative if you send anything (me too) but doesn’t feel the need to send anything of our own. Please don’t get me wrong though! I love receiving them. I appreciate the time and effort it takes to book a photographer, get everyone all dolled up, and then miraculously get everyone to smile (simultaneously) for a family picture. It’s just not for us.
There’s a video I recorded somewhere of our oldest playing in the snow in the backyard. In it you can hear clearly and consistently my oldest speaking Spanish – “Mami mira!”, “Mami, esta frio”, “Mami, ven juega conmigo”. Regrettably, her fluency is all but gone. Fortunately, she can still understand these words and if she wanted she could say them. However, she is nowhere near the fluency she had when she was young. There are a multitude of things I could blame for her decline: myself, my job (too busy). Ultimately, the excuse prevailing is the necessity to communicate with my husband – he only speaks and understands English. There is a gawking obviousness to our bicultural differences.
With the introduction of Jacob and the twins it has been infinitely difficult to interchange languages at home. They are beginning to learn how to speak so for now it is best to stick to one language at home, and for the sake of my husband it has been English. That is not to say I don’t consider the possibility of my children’s future speaking Spanish, but I feel it might be much easier once they have established a language first. For my oldest, it’ll come when she is offered the elective of Spanish courses in school. I hate to think my responsibility for introducing her to her culture via the most important tool must be taught instead by some institution that hardly regards her. My plan to make up for this is to one day send her to Mexico with my family for a crash course!
The sacrifice (as I feel it is one) of losing Spanish at home is not made with scorn for my husband because he can only speak one language. Instead, it is made because I am able. The actuality that in this lifetime I am able to love someone different from me. Yes, it has had its consequences but they are redeemable.
I am a proud Mexican. My husband is a proud White man. Our biculturalism brought us together. In light of the increase in hate crimes and the boldness of previously “closeted” racists, here you have one example of how we can overcome this ugliness: love.
In conclusion, obvious differences from the beginning of our relationship are bygone. We live our daily lives as everyone else does. There is nothing “special” about us. WE ARE LIKE EVERYONE ELSE.