Monday, September 16, 2013

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month

"Each year, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15, by celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.

I like to say that I am 2.5 generation Mexican-American. Both my parents were born in California, both my grandmothers were born in the United States, and both my grandfathers were born in Mexico. Despite the generational distance from Mexico, my childhood was filled with Mexican customs and traditions. I just didn't realize it at first. Never once did I realize that things like....

  • framed pictures of La Virgen de Guadalupe on the wall
  • walking Las Posadas at Christmas time
  •  going to a curandero when some was really sick
  •  blessing a new house by burning sage
  •  being afraid of La Llorona 
  •  even inviting everyone over for some beers after buying a new car or bringing home a new baby (remojo!)
... were part of my heritage. These things were so ingrained into my everyday life, and I grew up in an area that was at my guess 99% Mexican and Mexican-American, so it was a part of my whole community. I honestly thought that is how the world was (Yes I realize how sheltered my childhood was!).

At 13 I moved to a new city and started a brand new high school and was SHOCKED to figure out that not all people with brown skin were Mexican! It was a culture shock in the sense that I was realizing that a lot of the things that made up my family and our lives were because we were Mexican-Americans. I know this seems like common sense but it was a big wake-up call to me. I realized 2 things that would lead me the rest of my life. First as I realized that my family's ways were part of our heritage, customs and traditions I became very protective of them. This feeling of protection would put me on my academic path. I went to undergrad and graduate school for Chicano Studies. The second thing was I became fascinated with other cultures and their customs, traditions, religion and foods. 

Now my children are not only 3.5 generation Mexican American, they are also only half Mexican-American. I do my best to preserve the traditions of my childhood and their father's childhood. I also do my best at exposing my kids to other cultures and traditions. I want them to keep our heritage and customs alive while appreciating and understanding others' heritage and cultures. It is my hope that by doing this I am raising well-rounded and tolerant children. 

We are so lucky to live in a country where so many different cultures mingle together to create diversity. I believe Hispanic Heritage Month is a great time for everyone to appreciate and experience how rich, colorful and yes even yummy the Hispanic culture is. 

Will you be doing anything to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month? 

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