Tag Archives: Minnesota vs. Mexico

What’s in a name?

So throughout my pregnancy my husband and I have gone through a number of name discussions. We had our girl’s name picked out almost immediately. The boy’s name was much harder. Of course, due to our difficulty in agreeing on a name, we were not surprised when the ultrasound tech told us we were having a boy. Well, actually she sealed it in an envelope and we “discussed” opening it (I persuaded, he determinedly refused) for three weeks until he finally gave in. We have since agreed on a name for our little boy… a first name that is…

Baby boy at 20 weeks

Our Minnesota and Mexico mixing lead us down another path of name discussion. When we got married, I kept my traditional Scandinavian last name with the -son. I am in real estate where name recognition is a large part of business so I decided to take the “easy route” and not change. However, there is no doubt in my mind that any children of ours would have my husband’s family name and rock the “z” (the Mexican equivalent of -son, Lopez, Hernandez, Vasquez, Dominguez, similar to Johnson, Anderson, Peterson). I never thought this would lead to any sort of discussion or argument until he told me one day that the baby would be have my last name. I was surprised and even more surprised when I realized he was completely serious and determined.

Up until three weeks ago I was adamant about the baby taking my husband’s name and would not even consider any other idea on grounds of being so untraditional. When we both want to focus on the positive of being bicultural and teach him to be proud of his Mexican heritage, not giving him his father’s name seems very contradictory to that message. However, the legislation in Arizona that the governor signed into law on April 23rd, made me see his side of the argument for the first time.

Known as SB1070, the law gives Arizona police the right to question anyone who “appears to be illegal” and require them to prove legal status on the spot. Legal residents are required to carry their green cards at all times or face 6 months in jail and/or a $2500 fine if they are caught without one. Of course, that is after the person has been detained until they have proved their status. Now, my husband was told by our attorney to always carry his green card so I don’t really see that as a big issue. What upsets me is that we could be on vacation in Arizona and he decides to run across the street from our hotel and pick up a pop and snack so just grabs a few bucks and leaves his wallet behind. Meanwhile a crabby cop is filling up his squad car and decides Mex looks suspicious and asks him to prove his status. Since he doesn’t have his green card he is now detained and fined and possibly jailed… All because of his cinnamon skin, black hair and accent.

I do agree that something needs to be done to solve the undocumented worker issue and the drug problems along the border. However, I do not believe the argument that there will be no racial profiling. When my parents, husband and I came back from El Paso we reached a border control checkpoint. The guard stopped us and asked us all for our status. My parents and I said we were citizens and Mex said he was a permanent resident. The border guard did not ask for any of our US passports but made Mex show his papers. Maybe this was because of his non-citizen status but I tend to believe it was due to the color of his skin versus ours. I hope that when he becomes a citizen we get in a similar situation so I can test my theory.

During week surrounding the controversial Arizona SB1070, there was also an uptick in news reports about hate crimes regarding Latinos. In March, there was a group of teenage Caucasians accused of beating and killing a man in New York on a night of “beaner hopping” as they called it. Also, there was a story with video of a Guatemalan man laying on a New York street bleeding. The video showed more than six people walking by and looking at him, one person even snapping pictures, with not a single one calling for help or checking to see if he was alive.

The idea of anyone looking at my husband and making assumptions about him based on the color of his skin or his accent gives me extreme pain. I know when he fills out his name on an application the person on the other end automatically knows his ethnicity and could possibly be making conclusions about his legal status. Laying in bed and watching the reports of hate crimes against Latinos and discussions of racial profiling, we are both saddened. Though the thought of my husband being judged and given a hard time because of his name or color, the idea of our child facing discrimination is unbearable to both of us. I finally see why he thinks it would be “better” for our child to be have my less controversial Scandinavian last name. Seeing his name on paper would conjure a different image with my name versus his. My husband has dealt with prejudice and bias based on his name for the last 15 years and he doesn’t want his son to be given a hard time or lose out on opportunities because if something we can control.

How do we choose? Can we have it both ways? Can we teach him to be proud of his name and heritage while still protecting him from prejudice and racial hatred? We will try by giving him a Scandinavian middle name and his father’s last name. Today is the 60th anniversary of the historic supreme court case of Brown vs. Board of Education that was supposed to end racial segregation in the US. The news report was showing inner city schools and the high percentage of minorities that attend them versus the more “white” suburban schools. It was an interesting story and opened my eyes more than ever before since both my husband and child will be minorities. It makes my heart hurt to think of the difference in how my husband and I are perceived and treated and I dread the first time I discover my son is treated unequally due to his race.

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Filed under Family, Minnesota vs. Mexico

Hispanic Heritage Month

Some of you may or may not know that Sept 15th – Oct 15th is Hispanic Heritage Month. Interestingly, I am more excited about this than my Mexican husband. So far I’ve tried to get him to go to the Independence Day celebration on Lake Street (although that was technically on the 14th) and a free Flamenco Dance event in Minnehaha Park. Both times I was shot down. I’ve already printed off tickets for a Latino Family Day on Oct 11th in St. Paul which I’m sure we won’t go to either. I will put my foot down on Oct 26th when there is a Day of the Dead event at the MN History Center and go without him if I have to.

I’ve told him that I would like to explore different Latino outreach events because when we have children I think it is incredibly important for them to feel a part of the Latino community. We have talked about living in Mexico for 6 to 9 months when we have kids when they are about three to five so they can really become fluent in Spanish and, more importantly, get to know Mex’s family and town. We both agree on this point and hope our jobs at that time would allow us to do this. I think it is crucial that any children we have would spend time in Mexico and I believe it would help them appreciate life in the States a lot more.

Since when the day (still way in the future) comes to have children and decide to raise them I think these discussions about Latino/American culture will become a lot more at the forefront of our lives. I don’t force my husband to attend events even though I am interested in them and try to support him by going. The only one he does enjoy is the Cinco de Mayo celebration in St. Paul. Trying to blend our cultures is very difficult and I feel like his Mexican heritage is always getting watered down. We only speak English together, don’t dance to salsa or reggae music (we don’t dance at all actually!), don’t attend many Quinceañera (girl’s 15th birthday parties) or huge baptisms parties of strangers like his family does… The only thing we really do is cook Mexican food and try to share it with others.

Mex seems generally disinterested in events here, mainly because he views them as not really “Mexican.” I won’t say he is ashamed of being Mexican because he is definitely not. He’s just not the type who pastes a flag on the back of his car or flies one over his house. When we were in Mexico he enjoyed listening to music in Spanish, talking in Spanish, telling me stories about Mexico. When he is in Minnesota he focuses his thoughts here. What he should be doing here to be successful, to communicate, etc.

I asked him once if he knew what his heritage was, what kind of Indian was in his blood or how much Spanish. He says they are all mixed and has no idea what kind and no interest in finding out. To me it would be fascinating to know if his Indian blood was Aztec or Mayan or Incan or some other tribe. Just like I traced my family tree back to see what country all my ancestors came from so I can tell you exactly how much of everything I am (except for 1/16 that is up in the air between Danish and French/Canadian due to birth certificate discrepancy). I think many Americans can identify exactly what their heritage is and Mex has no interest in that discovery and really no resource to find out even if he did want to know.

In Mexico, for hundreds of years full-blooded Indians were the lowest class and then mestizos (a mix of Indian and Spanish or African) were the next lowest. There is still a definite divide in the country between these groups, especially when looking at income level. Most of the poorest people in the country are the indigenous people. I guess that is why my husband never really thought about what parts had made him a whole… In Mexico you are a Mexican first and you don’t really want to draw attention to the other parts of your heritage, especially the indigenous ones.

Hopefully, my husband and I will find a better balance between the American and Latino worlds here in Minnesota because part of what makes him special to me is his culture and his past and I want to help him keep those things alive and appreciate them with him… As much as he’ll allow me to I guess!

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Filed under Bicultural and biracial marriage, Hispanic-Latino events in MN, Marital Issues, Mexican culture, Minnesota, Minnesota vs. Mexico

8-8-08, New beginnings

Someone told me that 8-8-08 is considered a lucky date by the Chinese, a symbol of new beginnings. It is one of the reasons why the opening of the Olympics was chosen to be today. I wouldn’t say this week was full of new beginnings but it was definitely interesting.

To just add one more thing about the previously mentioned horrible one-day boss of Mex’s… He went to get his check for one day’s work since the guy wouldn’t give it to him the day he went to quit. Once he was there the boss argued with Mex and said “I already paid you, why are you here?” Mex said, “You didn’t pay me you told me to come back.” After a few more minutes of arguing with the “boss” Mex said “Do you think I’m an idiot?” and the guy finally gave him a check for the day. The one day Mex had worked he was told by co-workers that Latinos usually only last a week at the restaurant. I found that surprising since, in my experience, Latinos are hard workers and would rarely quit a job with good pay (which it was). I guess I now understand why they don’t stay! Did I mention the owner himself is an immigrant from Europe?

Anyway, enough about that guy. Shameful that an immigrant would treat a fellow immigrant so poorly but Mex will hopefully never have to see him again and we CERTAINLY will never go to the restaurant to eat.

This past Sunday, one of my Mexican nieces turned 6. To celebrate the day Mex and I went with some of his family to Prescott, Wisconsin to a park near the river. I must say his family always has the most amazing food! Even at a picnic they bring guacamole (which never seems to turn brown like mine), tomato and cilantro salad, Mexican rice… we grilled corn and cecina, which is thinly sliced, salted flank steak. Absolutely delicious! Very lean and sooooo good. They also put the tortillas on the grill to warm them up, because one would never be able to eat with a cold tortilla!! =)

We were celebrating and eating at one picnic table and there were many other tables of Americans around (pale ones like me =). After lunch Mex and his family were playing beach volleyball. I was sitting at the picnic table with his niece Eugenia’s neighbor chatting and I saw the group of American’s start tossing around a volleyball and look over at the net. One of the guys, in his 40’s or so, volunteered to go over to the Mexicans and see if they could use the net. As he went over and started talking to Mex and Chencho (his nephew-in-law), the people at the picnic table exclaimed “he’s talking to them!” like it was some sort of miracle. They repeated it a few times until I looked at them and said “they do speak English and they don’t bite very hard.” The Americans laughed and actually challenged Mex’s family to a volleyball match.

They played three games against each other and everyone on both teams had a great time. Then after they all shook hands and congratulated the winners (the Mexicans!) we each went back to our picnic tables. It turns out they were also celebrating a birthday and sang the Happy Birthday song almost at the same time we did. Each table cheered for the other after they sang.

It was a moment I needed to see after the sourness of Mex’s work experience. A moment of Americans, though skeptical at first, becoming open to the Mexicans. Not afraid. Enjoying their company, even experiencing some comraderee (not sure how to spell that). The American’s fear and hesitation disappeared once they opened themselves up to my Mexican family. I hope more people will do this. Truly open their minds and hearts to another culture. Put aside their preconceived notions and play together. It seems very possible as I sit here watching the opening ceremonies of the Olympic games. Dozens of countries joining together for 17 days, putting aside most political disagreements and just enjoying the event, striving to do their best.

Are my ideas of America’s subcultures truly joining together idealistic? Maybe. Impossible? I hope not.

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Filed under Family, Food, Immigration, Minnesota vs. Mexico

Pride

As I was driving to work this morning I decided to turn the radio off and just let my thoughts run. An interesting experience since I usually try to drown everything out with music cranked up just a little too much. My mind drifted back to the time in Tetelilla. I wondered what they were having for lunch today… how they were handling the heat… if the mouse was finally out of our room… how Gaby is doing in school… if Sofia’s granddaughter is smiling yet…

As thoughts swirled in my head, I started to become more analytical. I have always noticed the different dynamics of Latino family life vs. American family life. For instance, Mex is appalled at the idea of putting anyone in a place such as a nursing home, especially your parents. The idea of caring for your parents is so ingrained in Mexican children that there is no other option in their mind.

That leads me to my next thoughts… the idea of pride. It is evident in the way his sisters interact with Mex and Mex’s dad looks at him. You can see how proud they are of him. You can see how much his sisters love each other and are proud of each other’s accomplishments. As we would sit on the beds at night talking (there are no couches in the house they sleep in) his sisters would always be close and leaning on each other and acting like the best of friends. It was so fun to watch and I wished I could understand their jokes and stories more completely.

When we came back to Minneapolis and went to visit Mex’s brother Gigio for the first time, he was talking to me about the trip and telling me stories about his dad. His face beamed as he told me how, in his 20’s his father had been a matador in the bull fighting ring. Then he told me how, even though his father has been so unhealthy for many years, he still owns all of his fields where younger and stronger men in his town had lost theirs long ago. It made me smile to see how proud he was of his dad. It also made me wonder if he ever has told his dad that. Possibly… I know it is hard for Mexican men to express feelings to each other. They are very romantic and caring in their words to a carina or “sweetheart” but have a hard time voicing much sentiment to each other. I suppose that is true of men from any country but I just notice it more now with Mex’s family.

My thoughts were forced to wrap up as I neared the office but I vowed to myself to be more open with my emotions and tell people how I feel about them when I have the chance. Life is short. Enjoy every minute and help others enjoy theirs!

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Filed under Family, Minnesota vs. Mexico

This blogger’s beginning

Well, here it is… my very first foray into the blogging world. I told my good friend I had decided to start a blog and immediately I felt like I was playing paintball with my nephew. What is your blog about? Splat. I haven’t decided for sure. What is your focus? Splat. I don’t know. Well, what are you going to write about? Splat. Hell-ooo, I said I’m not sure. How often are you going to write? How are you going to get readers? What is your design like? Are you going to post pictures? Splat. Splat. Splat. Splat. Uhhh… maybe this wasn’t a good idea.

Seriously… Is blogging really that complicated? I thought I could just type in some thoughts, insert some pictures and share it with friends. Now I find out that is a whole science behind it. A standard. Even awards for blogs! I’m on the verge of 30, straddling the X and Y generation, the two most tech savvy groups alive and I feel like my almost 70-year-old dad is starting to teach me about the internet. A disturbing thought since I’ve been on the internet since 1994 and he didn’t even understand email until about nine months ago. Now he shops eBay, google earth’s real estate properties, checks emails more than I do… crazy. At least I can still beat him in a typing contest.

In truth, I have thought about the topic of my blog. I chose the name  “Minnesota and Mexico Mix” with the intent of sharing some stories about my mixed marriage. I am a Minnesota girl, 3/4 Scandinavian and 1/4 “mutt” as my grandpa always called himself – a pinch of German, Irish, French-Canadian or Dutch (that part is unsure due to a family scandal from the 1880’s). I grew up on a dairy farm that I truly believed didn’t have an odor, lived in a rural community where everybody knew everything about you, had about 50 family members within a 20-minute drive, ate hot dish instead of casseroles and drank pop instead of soda. According to my friends, I also have a very distinct Minnesota “O-hhh.”

My husband is also from a small town… about 2000 miles south in Morelos, Mexico. His family farm was full of vegetables and fruits (which smelled better than my cows, I’m sure). Like my town, information about neighbors spread as fast as the wind could blow.  He grew up with 10 family members living in a two room house, ate tortillas with every meal, walked everywhere he needed to go, had no running water and a dirt floor kitchen.

Different countries, different cultures, meeting and marrying here in Minnesota. Our journey together these past six years has been filled with communication speed bumps and cultural adjustments. Probably there is just as much compromise and understanding in our relationship as in any other. The thing that I believe is different in a mixed relationship is the heightened level of tolerance and acceptance that is necessary, not only by each of us, but by our families.

There are many anecdotes about our learning process I plan on using this blog to share and hopefully benefitting others in our situation. My husband and I recently met a couple that mirrored our situation and spent an evening with them. It was amazing how similar our experiences with each other and our families are. In fact, we had so many of the same stories to share that it was a little eerie. It was a wonderful pleasure to spend time with them laughing over the challenges we’ve all overcome and musing over the ones in our futures.

The cultural differences between a Minnesotan and a Mexican are very real, but not insurmountable. We are having fun figuring things out and look forward to the next few months of traveling.

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Filed under Bicultural and biracial marriage, Marital Issues, Minnesota vs. Mexico