Growing up we were raised with a modicum of pride in our ethnicity, despite the fact that some of us were as white as ghosts. My Great Grandfather came here from Mexico with his wife (mixed European American) and their children asserting a finality that they were American now and no longer would speak Spanish; probably not to the liking of my Great Great Grandmother who was apparently a very mean Black Foot Indian.
My Grandma grew up in the desserts of California where my mother would later be raised in her early years before they all disappeared to Midwestern small towns. The other half of my Grandmother’s side stayed in California and Mexico. I had never met any of them growing up outside of my Great Aunt Corky, but many of our family members who could afford it had and still do visit. We were just too poor to be able to make those family vacations and so had missed out on a great connecting piece to our heritage, but we had our Grandma and once-a-month Enchilada dinners.
Despite the fact that we didn’t celebrate any real Hispanic holidays, my Grandmother made sure we knew where we had come from. Her home was decorated with items from Mexico, sombreros and maracas used to hang from the wall that we loved sneaking down as kids. She often would make silly jokes about those of us that grew up pale and had sunburns and we always blamed her for our overly hairy arms. Since our line came from the Maya, we always checked out babies to see if they had the marks after birth and reported that first to her, just in case it passed a generation. Every so often we all got together to roll Enchiladas and ranted on and on about how her mother wouldn’t give her the Tamale recipe. It was a story that passed from mother to daughter for 4 generations.
My Mother was proud too. I suppose for two women that had to go through a time of prejudice it was more important. I can’t imagine moving to small town America and enduring what they had as a mixed immigrant family and then my Mother having been bullied throughout her years in school; then coping with our rag tag gang as a teen mom in the 70s. Holding on to our roots meant holding on to each other.
Our time is more accepting. I wasn’t bullied for coming from a mixed Hispanic lineage, but because we were poor. I suppose that’s why growing up we thought our history was interesting and beautiful, but not exactly so important to cling on to. When asked if we were Caucasian or Hispanic, we were confused. What were we exactly?
I was asking myself this again for the umpteenth time when I had to fill out a blogging profile. I always thought the idea of white was amusing for me since I’m more ‘yellow’. That darker brown/orange skin seemed to dull with my birth so I came out this odd color that make-up has not figured out in over 15 years.
I decided to get back to the question the next day and kind of forgot about it until I wound up at my Mother’s and was cleaning up the upstairs. Out of this box rolled one of Grandma’s Maracas. My mom had no idea how it’d gotten there and we only assumed that maybe it was gifted after her passing to one of my siblings who wound up leaving it there. It was antique old and a little beaten from the box so I took it home.
Later that day I got back online to work and I remembered the check box. I stared at the maraca for a long time. When I used to get upset about my Grandma passing away right after we started getting to know each other, the song I sang at her wedding would come on or I’d catch the sent of refried beans and enchiladas. So I thought, maybe finding the maraca wasn’t really a coincidental occurrence. Maybe in a strange way she was calling to that part of me that is her roots here. I decided to check Hispanic.
The maraca probably won’t be here long since I’m sure the owner would like that piece of my Grandma back. I don’t have any pieces of her here for myself. I got to sing for her at her last wedding and she had gotten to tell me how proud she was of me months before she lost her mind to pain and medications, that was a gift of memories. So I get to hold on to this for a little while and tell stories to the kids of their Grandma and Great Grandma’s adventures raising cattle or catching scorpions.
Although holding onto my Hispanic origins doesn’t have the importance that my Mother and Grandmother must have had, I think that perhaps it is more because after our generation the blood is diluted on this side. My Great Aunt Corky may have carried on the generations of Latinos in California, but my Grandmother’s line had woven itself into the Caucasian Midwest. My brothers, sisters and cousins are the last remnants of the long ago days. I don’t think I could go so far as becoming a Latino blogger, although it would definitely get me more jobs! I just think that for my Grandma I should check the right box and hold on to the part of her inside of me.
I can be proud of that.