Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Hispanic in the South

Have you ever seen the movie 'Selena'?
It's about the Mexican-American singer who was shot and killed in 1995 at the age of 23.
(This movie also made J.Lo famous)
Anyway, there's this scene when Selena's dad, Abraham, is going on a rant on how difficult it is to be Mexican-American.
"We've got to know about John Wayne and Pedro Infante...Oprah and Cristina... American food is too bland and yet when we go to Mexico we get the runs!... We have to be more Mexican than the Mexicans and more American than the Americans, both at the same time! It's exhausting!"
It's a humorous part of the film and maybe he's exaggerating it a bit, but I can somewhat relate.
(Check the scene here, jump to 6:50 in the video)

Since I grew up in Miami it really wasn't that big of a deal being Hispanic-American. My friends and I were all weird hybrids. We love frijoles and cheeseburgers, Salsa and classic rock, Que Pasa USA and Friends. We all identify with the countries of our origins ("I'm Puerto Rican," "I'm Cuban," "I'm Nicaraguan") without having to add the silly 'American' part. We speak in a blend of Spanish and English, Spanglish. And it's fine, nobody minds, we all understand each other.

Whenever I've gone to Nicaragua (or other Latin American countries), though, I am straight up American. I trip over my words and can't relate to their way of life.
Here in the South, though, I am decidedly not American. I don't like college football, seersucker anything, or Paula Deen...nor can I relate to any of that. And WHAT is the deal with people around here having parties with no dancing? No dancing?? Sad.

I'm not American enough and I'm not Nicaraguan enough.

Again, in Miami this wasn't a big deal...we're all hybrids, remember? Now that we're living outside of Miami, however, the differences are more evident. I wonder how it'll be for future generations in our family, my kids and grandkids. Every generation will be less Hispanic and more American. I would hate to lose our culture to a fully American culture...not that I don't love America, I do! Honestly! But I'm proud of our roots. I love the Spanish language, I love my Abuelita's Nicaraguan cooking, I love getting together with my loud crazy family over the holidays, I love salsa dancing at every get together. I don't want to lose that.

Anyway... I'm not sure where this blog post is going, haha. These are just thoughts that have been swimming around in my head today.
Any thoughts of your own to add???


danilo lopez said...

You are quite right, Kristel, it is quite difficult to navigate this hybridity we have. There are two things we can do though. One, to keep the root alive by learning to cook our dishes, dance our music, and speak our language. Two, to be as American as apple pie, speaking the language, understanding football -the sacred game-, ane enjoying the music.

This country is a society in continuous flux. At some point the Italians dominated, at some other the Irish. Germans were big. Now we have a tremendous influx of Hispanics. In a few years we will be the biggest majority. In some other we will be a majority. But we will not be completely assimilated into the Anglo Saxon culture, we are enriching it, we are impacting and changing it: listed to the music, the food, the TV, the marketing, the whole culture feels the impact of latinos. I am not a Latino poet, I am not an American poet. But process of inculturation works both ways.

Yes, your children adn grandchildren will feel it less, they will inhabit a truly global society. Speaking Arabic and Chinese will be normal, in addition to English adn Spanish. "We are a strong race", said Edward James Olmos at a speech I attended to in Miami Beach with my mom. We are adaptable, resilient, hard workers, with a wider vision of reality just for speaking two languages (some times more than two). That is a huge advantage over most Anglos who only speak one language, have never traveled outside the country, and have no idea that there is a whoel universe outside these borders. We are bringing that universe to the country. each year thousands os Asians, Indians, Africans come to the USA and bring a richer ingredient to the melting pot. We are part of that universe, and you and your children will have more to contribute than older generations, like me and your mom.

What a big opportunity, historical, of huge cultural impact, of huge spiritual consequences. That is a mission God put in your plate.

Love you,


Heredes said...

Kristel ... loved the post and totally relate . I also really appreciated Mr. Lopez's comment ...

However ,with all due respect -- one correction must be made -

The global Sacred Sport is of course Soccer - ( the original "futebol") - the sport that unites billions of people and continuously champions the best: Brazil

Haha ;) J/K


One proud Brazillian American Tri-Lingual Hybrid married to a Venezuelen/Peruvian born in Coconut Grove/ Miami.


Merari said...

I wholeheartedly relate. I am a total mutt and never fully fit in anywhere. I remember when my family and I first moved to Pennsylvania from Honduras, how difficult and confusing it was to maintain our traditions and way of life in a completely different culture, especially one that was constantly attempting to "Americanize" us to the point of shaming us for being different. e.g. I would get in trouble for speaking Spanish in school because the teachers couldn't understand what I was saying.

I love George Lopez' stand-up because he always talks about the unique position Latinos have in the United States (watch "Why you cryin'?" you'll love it).

It pains me to think that my children may not be so close to their latin roots as I am, and even scares me to think that they may choose to reject their Latin roots altogether, like it happens to so many second and third generations of immigrants.

I think the best way to maintain roots is to be in constant awareness of them. Visit Nicaragua as frequently as you can. Like your dad said, dance to our music, read our literature, cook our food and speak our language. Most importantly for your kids, involve them in not just Latin culture, but also in all other types of cultures. It pains me to see cases of youth that are ashamed of their cultures because they would rather be "All-American". Instill a sense of cultural pride in your children while also teaching them about all the other awesome cultures that exist in the world.

Oh, and you should totally teach your new North Carolinian friends all about our ways. Host a party and bring out the Juan Luis Guerra and Gallo Pinto! haha. It may be awkward at first, but no one can resist.

PS. I'm with Mr. Brazilian. Futbol is the global sacred sport ;-)

Room to Think said...

don't worry, you're making perfect sense. i'm Chinese in Australia. no big deal cos it's so multicultural and most of my friends are from all over the globe but yeah with the future generation you want to know you're keeping your roots...we're thinking we may move back home to where family is...