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On Being Bicultural

This post was originally published in March 2011. It has been updated slightly to include both of our kids and republished for our current blog readers.

Who am I?

Sometimes I’ve found myself wondering, who am I exactly?  What is it that makes me, me?

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In my younger days, I thought that I knew exactly what I was all about, but youth sometimes plays tricks on you and makes you think that the world is a much smaller place than it actually is.  

As my world grew, so many things began to change and I began to see things through different eyes.  Our race, gender, education level, social class and so many other facets make us who we are and each time one of those facets changes, it can also change us.

When I met my husband, another change was inevitable.  I began to see the world from his perspective.  I saw a vibrant world rich with culture, laughter and lots of dancing and music, and I wondered…why didn’t we grow up this way?

My family is (mostly) Polish and Austrian, but we had let our heritage slip through our fingers.  We didn’t participate in any community dances, have lavish family BBQs or sing music in our foreign tongue.  We had lost it all.

Looking back I remember bits and pieces, my dad’s playful chimes of dummkopf and my mother wrapping scarves around our heads singing the babushka song, but so much of it was gone.  And there are only tiny grains left in my memory now, which are almost impossible to reclaim.

My family finds it difficult to understand why I cling to every bit of my husband’s culture.  Some have called me “self-hating” and insisted that I’m “pretending to be Mexican” and that whites shouldn’t be speaking Spanish or taking part in Mexican culture.

It can be difficult hearing this at times, especially when your family is supposed to support you in times when all others let you down.

But for me, I envy my husband’s culture, I envy his knowledge of his ancestors and his ability to speak the language that has been in his family for generations.

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Being bicultural and white

I don’t question my love for Latino culture, I embrace it.  It has become a part of who I am and will continue to be a part of our family identity.  

We are una familia., one who sings the babushka song, Juan Gabriel and the Gypsy Kings, eats barbacoa tacos and arroz, drinks horchata and cider, and dances around like a bunch of goofs to just about anything catchy.  

We are at peace with ourselves, despite the wishes and regrets of others and we grow every day in our knowledge of who we are.

When I think about myself, I don’t feel comfortable with the labels that I’ve been given…especially my most prominent, white.

It doesn’t tell all the story of who I am, where I’ve come from or what I’ve been through.  For my husband to tell the story, he saw me as just a stereotype at first.  A perfect little “white bread” girl who’s never had to worry her pretty little head about a thing, and that’s how my label can be deceiving.

My husband believed that we were world’s apart and that I could never understand his world, but we both had our own stories to tell and neither one of them fit within our social labels.

I can still remember my family’s shock when I told them that my, then, boyfriend’s favorite food was lasagna.  “Wait a minute”, they said, “I thought he was Mexican. Shouldn’t he like tacos?”  

I still get upset at times thinking about all the ridiculous questions I’ve been asked, some very personal and critical, but I suppose it makes sense when we are educated through stereotypes and not by experience.

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Making things better for our kids

I don’t want the first thought in someone’s head to be a stereotype about me, my husband or my precious children.

I hope that things will be different for our kids and that more Americans will become aware of their prejudices and be open to seeing things through different eyes.

Hopefully, our children will see greater numbers of people who look like them and are accepting of their biracial / bicultural heritage.  Hopefully much more readily than those we’ve come across in our relationship.

But, I have to say, overall, our family and friends have been the hardest to please.  I don’t find myself questioning who I am except in the presence of those closest to us who are not accepting or understanding of our commitment to each other.  

It’s a harsh but true reality for many interracial and intercultural couples. What it all boils down to though, is an increased sense of awareness of who we are.

Nothing helps us to understand ourselves better than being faced with individuals who question every bit of our identity.  I’ve had to look deep within myself and justify every choice, every belief, and I can tell you this much…I know who I am.

Vocab List

  • dummkopf – (German) dummy, stupid.
  • babushka – (Polish) a scarf, also used for grandmother.
  • una familia – (Spanish) a family.
  • barbacoa – (Spanish) steamed or stewed, shredded beef cheek.
  • arroz –(Spanish) rice.
  • horchata – (Spanish) a milky rice water drink made with cinnamon.

Facebook Comments


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  • Me and the Mexican
    March 12, 2011 at 8:53 pm

    loved ur post! i can relate to everything your wrote! I do not know how many times i've been asked, well he likes tacos right? or i bet he eats a ton of jalepenos! people……….

    just know you guys are not alone and for once i can say I know who I am right now too!

    • Chantilly Pati&ntild
      March 12, 2011 at 8:58 pm

      Gracias chica! I always get a little nervous when posting something personal because so many people have gotten upset about my honesty. I hope I can share more posts like this in the future. Thanks for the support! =)

  • Anonymous
    March 14, 2011 at 12:55 am

    Another great post, amiga! I think that what you're doing (raising you kids in a multicultural home) is awesome. It's posts like this that remind me why I'm so adamant about my kids celebrating American holidays, like Easter and St. Patrick's Day. (I'm a 1/4 Irish) I want them to celebrate and be proud of their cultures.

    Keep up the great work!

    • Chantilly Pati&ntild
      March 14, 2011 at 8:52 am

      Leslie, I'm with you! All parts are equally important and while they might not seem useful at times, I think every bit of diversity we can provide gives our children knowledge to understand people and cultures that might be different from their own. Celebrating those holidays is important in keeping alive their bonds to their heritage….plus, they're super fun!!! =) Thanks for the support comadre.

  • FFPMaMMa
    April 14, 2011 at 11:43 am

    I totally understand where you are coming from. And I am of the belief that when you are married: "two shall become one". This applies to you fully embracing your husband's culture. Do it with all your might friend! I bet he is doing the same with yours. I have found myself embarrassed to be and American at times (this was while I was in Europe & UK). It was during this time that I told myself I wanted to marry a non-American. Don't get me wrong, I didn't only seek out non-Americans, but was truly blessed when God provided me a beautiful husband from Samoa.

    Since then I have regained a new perspective of the American culture and am doing my best to make sure my Pule is raised embracing both cultures.

    Thank you for sharing your heart…I will have a similar post myself in the near future.

    • Chantilly Pati&ntild
      April 17, 2011 at 1:14 pm

      Thank you so much for reading. I have enjoyed your blog a lot too and have found so many similarities in the way our families operate. It's so funny to see how much is alike in multicultural familias and to realize that no matter what cultures are involved, we are so similar! I'm glad that you found your hubby and that you've had a relationships of give and take where you embrace each other's cultures. That is so important! :)

  • Laura S
    January 9, 2012 at 2:31 pm

    Agree 100% . . . . can't stand the term "White" and while I embrace my husband's Mexican culture, I teach our children (what I can) about my ethnicities, but it's not the same, there's just not that same connection. And I think that's okay, because life isn't all 50/50. Yes, our children eat tortillas but they go crazy for challah bread and they both sing along to mariachi and jump around to Riverdance. And on the stereotype end, it cuts both ways. While nobody can believe I'm as fluent as I am in Spanish and not have Latin in my background and that I listen to everything from cumbias to reggaeton to baladas, they also can't believe my husband doesn't like beer and isn't Catholic. Thanks again for sharing!

    • biculturalmom
      January 9, 2012 at 3:24 pm

      Thanks for sharing Laura! And I totally agree on everything you said here. ;) Finding a balance is great, but hard to do…and I agree that it's ok. Our children will take what they connect with most and grow that part of their identity, which happens differently for each child…as it also does for us in our relationships and personal identity.

      I also had to deal with a lot of stereotyping on the part of my in-laws….lol…so I know what you mean, and yes…people still think it's weird when I speak Spanish. Some Latinos are even insistent that I must be Latina…which of course, is the best kind of flattery…LOL. ;)

  • White Bhabi
    January 9, 2012 at 9:25 pm

    People the world over have the wrong view of 'white's' and it's astounding. Through intercultural relationships you can learn so much about your own culture and the realities of the world. The fact is that all people are the same in their mindsets (meaning there are jerks, losers, lazy bums, sweethearts and spoiled ppl) across the globe but no one realizes it. Everyone perceives they have it so much harder than white people but that is so far from the truth. It's actually a form of self hatred they don't even realize when they act/say/think that white people have life so much better. They are essentially saying white people are better (either financially, socially, etc) and that's just not the case at all.

    • biculturalmom
      January 10, 2012 at 8:51 am

      @White Bhabi I agree that white people are not better, but I think we have to put the blame where it lays, on white people. There may be some “self-hatred” or more often “self-doubt” going on, but that is a direct result of the subjugation and negative stereotyping put upon people of color by whites. My point is, if you know your history, it’s easy to see that people of color have absorbed their vision of themselves from the story that whites tell and the fact that they are often unable to share their own…or live it for that matter.

      My husband, for example, lives with self-doubt every day. It’s something he will likely always have to address, since whites continue to view him as inferior and displace their view onto him through subservience and subjugation. POC are on the bottom for a reason…and whites put them there. Finding your way to the top is possible, but comes with a variety of difficulties that shouldn’t be minimized.

      I hope you can appreciate where I’m coming from.