When I got married, I changed my last name, like many women before me have done. However, when I did that, my name changed from being a clearly hispanic name. Obviously there is nothing wrong with that decision or with my married name, but as a result I now face a future of children who could easily forget their heritage since it is not immediately prominent in their name.
Sept.15 through Oct.15 brings Hispanic Heritage Month, and with it my own personal worries about ensuring my heritage doesn’t get left behind. You see, I am in an interracial marriage. My husband is your typical white man (Irish and Greek heritage from small town Ohio) and I am descended from Mexicans, many of whom (my parents included) were born and raised in the border city of El Paso, Texas.
Having spent about five years of my life living in El Paso as a young child, I was able to grow up knowing what it was to be Mexican American. My grandma taught me how to make homemade flour tortillas, which we had daily. Mariachi music was a normal thing to hear coming out of the house stereo system. Every birthday party had piñatas, and I very much looked forward to the day when I would turn 15 and have my very own quinceañera (basically the Mexican equivalent of a sweet 16). Both of my parents are bilingual and Spanish words were very normal around the house. In fact until I was about 8 years old I didn’t know that a nightstand/bureau had any other word besides cómoda. Trash was basura, and the hamper was the dirty ropa.
We eventually moved to Ohio and it became much harder to preserve our Mexican culture. Let’s face it, we as humans are adaptable. We adjust to our surroundings, and the Ohio surroundings are far different from the Mexican culture I lived with in El Paso.
Luckily for me, my parents did a heck of a job making sure my heritage wasn’t all gone. My mom regularly made Mexican meals for dinner, sometimes going to different cities until she could find the appropriate ingredients. They proudly hung Mexican tapestries and art. One year they even took out the luminarias for Christmas.
All this being said, I now face a new reality where I am no longer the child. I now have a child of my own. It is my job to ensure our Hispanic traditions get passed on to him. I am very nervous that I will get things wrong. Unlike my parents, I don’t have a spouse that is completely versed in the traditions of Mexican-Americans. Don’t get me wrong, my husband is great and respects my culture and traditions, but he doesn’t have the experiences to draw from when I need help explaining things.
Nevertheless, I am doing my best to share my Mexican culture with my child. I play my son mariachi music often. I read bilingual books to him, and I made sure he had cascarones for Easter. As he grows up, I will make sure he knows how his great-grandfather came over as an immigrant. I will make sure he knows that his grandfather was an English as a second language learner. He has tasted homemade tortillas and will hear scary stories about La Llorona and chupacabras.
My son will be raised to be a proud Mexican-American man, even with the last name of Ryan.