Friday, March 26, 2010

How Mexican Am I

So I take the Facebook quiz “How Mexican Are You” and score as “coconut,” brown on the outside but white on the inside. Yo me ruborizo! How is that possible? I know my Papi was determined to have us kids fit in and be acculturated (not assimilated) and that’s a reason why we always had a very traditional American-style Thanksgiving with turkey, yams with marshmallows, corn, beans, and cranberry relish (all indigenous Mexican foods, ironically, except for the cranberry). But my Mami, well, she raised us in las viejas costumbres, the old ways.

I think I sensed this deeply for the first time in high school when I brought home an Anglo boy, Jerry, to meet the family. I feared Papi would interrogate him like a cop drilling a suspect and my Madrina Maria would corner him with stories of Oaxaca even though she didn’t speak English and Mami would serve tripe soup with chiles colorados to test his mettle – but I brought home the Anglo boy anyway. A crowd of Mami, Papi, my three brothers, all my cousins, uncles and tias, with all the curious, chattering neighbors greeted him. Jerry shook hands with Papi and my three brothers and smiled at everyone else – not knowing he was expected to meet everyone personally with a handshake and a warm verbal greeting. I should have told him.

Later, Mami called him muy frio, very cold, mal educado, ill mannered. Is this how we raised you – to find a gringo for a boyfriend who is so bent on dishonoring us, who has no respeto for our familia?

He doesn’t know our ways, I cried. He is Americano.

And what are you? Mami asked.

And I realized fully for the first time I was in two worlds at once.

Maybe that’s why my Thanksgiving dinners have a Mexican twist to them these days, like the corn with salsa, jalapeños, green onion and red bell pepper, or my chipotle and chive cornbread, or the black bean dip for the blue tortilla chips. Just don’t ask me to serve mole with the turkey.

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