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CULTURE

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?

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.

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About Author

Hi ya'll! I'm Chantilly, a South Texas Foodie, Traveler, Photographer and Designer. Here on the blog, I share Mexican-inspired recipes, family adventures with the kiddos + cat, travel and shopping guides, reviews, and more. Don't forget to follow and subscribe for more from us!

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