Tag Archives: Heritage

Lunch Time Stories

I made another attempt at doing some more research for my “Historias” page yesterday. I went to see my grandmother and mother during my lunch break. It was a welcome respite from the gang, drug and sex abuse cases I deal with during my job in the criminal justice system.  The cases which are stories that all too often do not have happy endings.

When I arrived for lunch my mother was already there. She comes at least once a week to visit my grandmother who refuses to leave the house she has lived in for longer than I can remember.  My grandmother, of course was there too. She was a little disoriented, but at nearly 97 years-old, she’s entitled. She asked my mom three times, if the food my mom brought over was for her.  My grandmother finally stopped fussing in the kitchen, and settled down to eat her “hot cakes and sausage” while my mom and I enjoyed our Caldo de Pollo. My grandmother began to recount some of the stories from her youth with clarity and animation. My grandmother’s stories transported me to another time, when catching flu in the year 1918 was fatal, and when the death of a spouse meant homelessness and poverty for a widow with three young children under 10. I deal with tragedy and ugliness everyday in my job, but when I view it through the lens of a young 5 year-old girl who happens to be my grandmother recounting her history, it is vivid, it is real.  I listen to her story and realize that the woman she is today, the mother who has given birth to 6 children, 2 of whom did not live past one month, and another who died at 42; the grandmother who has helped to raise 9  grandchildren, but has also buried one of them; the woman whose life has given her memory filled with happiness and sadness; this woman who now has difficulty remembering how the food she is eating was put on her plate, I can’t help but think that her’s is a story with a happy ending.

Latino Heritage

This past month has been a celebration of Latino heritage. Latino Heritage  Month technically runs from September 15 to October 15.  Being Latina is a big part of who I am.  During most of my childhood, I lived in a very diverse community near Los Angeles.  In my neighborhood there were Armenians, Japanese Americans, Anglos, and people who looked like me. It wasn’t until I moved to a predominately white suburb that I was aware that I was different. During my first days in the new school, my new classmates were naturally curious about the “new girl.”  They asked me “what I was.”  I wasn’t quite sure how to answer that question because I wasn’t really sure what they were asking, and I had never been asked that question before. I must have looked confused because the follow-up question was, “Are you Hawaiian…Italian… Indian?” Mexican wasn’t even an option.

I responded that I was Mexican, and then they asked if I was born in Mexico.

 Over the years I have been asked that question several more times, although it may not have been phrased the same way.   Depending on the circumstances I answered the questions in varying ways:

“I’m Mexican.”

“I’m Mexican American.”

“I’m Hispanic.”

“I’m  Latina.”

“I’m American, but of Mexican ancestry.”

“I was born in the U.S. but all of my grandparents were born in Mexico.”

Even though I wasn’t always certain what was the best way to answer that question, I still felt certain that I knew who I was and where my family was from. And I felt proud of my heritage.  My parents and family raised me with pride in our heritage, and culture. At family celebrations,  I would watch my mother dance  the Mexican folk dances she had learned as a young girl. I learned these dances too. I have had occasion to dance as an adult. 

I am so glad that some of these cultural lessons have been passed on to my children, my step-daughter Erica.

Diego, my youngest son, walked in the Latino Heritage parade last week. He marched with his classmates from his 1st grade Spanish immersion program. He wore the hat typical of his father’s native country, Colombia.

This is what Latino heritage is all about. A celebration of who we are and who are ancestors were. I hope that when my kids are asked the question, “What are you?” They will know how to answer, and they will answer with pride.