17 different women, 36 crazy children, 0 babies in utero
Adventures, Advice and Questions from a group of Mormon women who met in Queens, NY and have now scattered all over the place.

Friday, May 04, 2007

A Celebration of Mexican Heritage

If you are lucky enough to attend a reunion thrown by my father's side of the family, the phrase you are sure to hear shouted repeatedly is not the popular, "Be quiet, we're saying the prayer!" but a less prominent phrase of most Utah-held reuions, "Viva Mexico!" You see, even though my pasty white skin, thin brown hair, and Danish surname won't give you any clues, I am part Mexican. My father (who actually looks more the part with his thick black hair and dark skin) was born in Mexico and lived there until his early teens before he emigrated with his brothers and sister to Utah.

With that said, my immediate family doesn't have a close connection with our Mexican heritage. The only Spanish I know was learned in one semester of high school Spanish (oh, and Dora the Explorer). My mom cooked Mexican food for us once in a while and I do admit having a soft spot in my heart for Taco Bell. I vaguely remember taking cajeta to a school "culture day" and I think I have tasted flan but I don't think I liked it. I do like churros though--they're Mexican. But I have only had them at Disneyland--not so Mexican. There is not much more to my experience with Mexican culture than most "white-bread" Americans. But at my extended family reunions, I am reminded of a truly rich culture that is part of my heritage. It makes me sad that I do not know more about it. It makes me sad that I don't feel a part of it. My family has received the deserved yet lovingly given label of "gringo". Since the last family reunion which occurred this past Thanksgiving, I have been trying to do little things to remedy the situation.

-I picked out a traditional dress in the colors of Mexico's flag for Princess to wear to her preschools Cinco de Mayo celebration. As a child, I remember envying my cousins at the family reunions when they wore such dresses and performed folklorico dancing. I also found a little one for Pumpkin at the thrift store.

-I have visited the Famous Olvera Street a number of times. Last time there was an art exhibit of painted tortillas - not sure if this is a regular part of Mexican culture, but it sure looked fun! We also picked up a sombrero so we can practice the Mexican Hat Dance which happens to be the "national dance of Mexico".

-I learned how to make traditional Mexican tamales from a woman in my ward.

-I read a little more about Cinco de Mayo and felt stupid when I realized that it is not Mexico's Independence Day (which is what I always thought). I then felt better when the article stated the day is used in North America to "celebrate the culture and experiences of Americans of Mexican descent". Hey, that's me! Let's celebrate!

So here is how we are going to celebrate Cinco de Mayo this year:

-The girls are excited to wear their traditional Mexican Dresses all day.
-I planned on attending a Cinco de Mayo community celebration, but I just found out our local one has been canceled.
-So, we'll probably just turn on a Spanish Radio Station and perform our "Mexican Hat dance" at home.
-We are going to eat Mexican Food for dinner and because I don't trust my skills to make it authentic, we'll probably go out.
-Finally, I want to sit down with my daughters and tell them about their great-grandmother, Maria. I don't really know that much about her because she passed away when my father was young, but we will talk about what it was like for her to live in Mexico back then. We'll look at pictures and admire her thick, long, dark hair and I'll tell my girls that we all have her same dark brown eyes.

I know many of these things seem pretty shallow. They really just skim the surface of what it means to really celebrate your heritage, but I figure becoming familiar with the heritage is the first step. And the more I learn about and experience the Mexican culture the more I am ready to join with my extended family and shout "Viva Mexico!".


  • Carrie,

    I think it is so great that you are exploring your Mexican heritage. I'm super jealous--I wish I had some real Mexican ties.

    You've probably already thought of this, but one of my favorite Mexican holidays is "Dia de los Muertos." I know many Mexican members of the church still celebrate it, but tweak it a little to make it more family history oriented (instead of the sometimes near-occultic/ancestor worship stuff that goes on). A bishop and his family in one area of my mission had a huge Dia de los Muertos altar that the kids were very excited about decorating with their ancestors' photos, favorite objects, etc. I think, done the right way, it's a very cool way to connect the generations.

    J and are going to Tacos Mexico to celebrate tonight...it's been our favorite Mexican place (in NYC) for years but we were totally validated last month when a NYT survey of *real* Mexicans rated it the #1 Mexican restaurant in the city. No gringo cheddar cheese, nachos, or thick sour cream at this place, for sure. We're talking mole, nopales, posole, sopes, the works. Mmmmm.....
    posted by Blogger Maria at 5/05/2007 08:35:00 AM  

  • I love that idea of celebrating Dia de los Muertos. And no, I hadn't thought of it. The only connection I have made with that day of celebration is falling in love with this fabric a while back. Maybe I can figure out a way to work it in :).

    Yummmmm. Tacos Mexico. I loved that place. Very authentic. DH is more of an Americanized Mexican food lover, so we didn't make it there as much as I would have liked.
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 5/05/2007 09:07:00 AM  

  • Yo quiero TACO BELL....

    My parents never did anything like this for us....so it makes me want to know what EXACTLY I am and how I might celebrate that...
    posted by Blogger Kage at 5/05/2007 03:08:00 PM  

  • Carrie, We are also trying to incorporate Mexican traditions in to our family.

    My favorite so far is Dia De Los Reyes....so simple and fun!


    The one thing the site leaves out is that you stick a very small toy or trinket into the Rosca de Reyes and the person who gets that piece has good luck for the year (or something like that).

    DH has good memories of it as a child except that his crazy aunt (the one who took off with Pumpkin at our last East LA fiesta) used to always steal the piece with the trinket.
    posted by Blogger Jen at 5/05/2007 03:56:00 PM  

  • My son is on a mission in Leon Mexico and loves the people and really loves the food. Can't wait to have him share with us all the things that he learned.
    It would be hard for me to eat Mexican food in NYC on a visit. NYC has so much great food. Love that City. Love to hear about what it is really like to live so Urban raising your families. :D
    posted by Blogger delilas at 5/05/2007 07:00:00 PM  

  • Jen,

    Thanks for passing on the link. I'll have to add it to our Christmas plans this year -- it looks like fun and another way to make the Christmas season last even longer--love that.

    Most people don't go to NYC for Mexican food. Good places (or at least authentic places) are hard to come by.
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 5/05/2007 10:46:00 PM  

  • Carrie, I know that next summer a bunch of us (Tiffany, Jared, Chantel...) are planning an official family trip to Mexico since it's likely we will never have a family reunion there. I'm attempting to recruit as many as I can. I talked to the Devlyns and they, of course, are thrilled that any family would come visit. I don't know if you would feel comfortable bringing your girls but last time I went it changed my life and I felt more connected with our heritage and realized how neat it is that Mexican is our ethnicity, not our race. Remember Uncle Ray - "We aren't latinos, we are Mexicanos!"
    posted by Blogger Maria Tortilla at 5/06/2007 10:31:00 AM  

  • Carrie, why didn't you share that because of your "Mexican Heritage" you declared yourself a minority in high school and received special recognition as a minority top scholar? Loved your blog article. Love your immigrant Father
    posted by Blogger Grandma at 5/06/2007 06:05:00 PM  

  • I love Cinco de Mayo despite not having any Mexican or Latino heritage (at least that I am aware of). Usually I throw a party or cook something special but this year I was sooooo lame. We went to Cafe Rio.
    Now I have a list of things to do next year! Thanks!
    posted by Blogger Melissa at 5/07/2007 02:09:00 PM  

  • Thanks for commenting Dad. I didn't mention my National Hispanic Scholar award because now looking back I feel a little bad about it. Even though it was during another time that I was trying to "get in touch" with my Mexican heritage, I feel bad that I might have taken that "accolade" away from someone else.
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 5/07/2007 03:40:00 PM  

  • Carrie,

    I thought as much. I'm proud of you and the other "would-be Mexicanos". I'm proud to be a "Gringo Americano with a Mexicano" heritage. Any of you Gringos know where the term "Gringo" came from?
    posted by Blogger Grandma at 5/07/2007 04:23:00 PM  

  • There are lots of theories on where the word "gringo" came from. Here is a nice summary: Origin of "Gringo"

    I personally think the the "gringo"-"griego" explanation seems the most plausible.
    posted by Blogger Maria at 5/08/2007 06:49:00 AM  

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