Halloween in Imperial Valley

Halloween always creeps up on me and it has always been a sticky tricky day for me. When I was a little girl in Imperial Valley, I had to do what I could to make it fun. Then as an adult I tried to ignore the day as much as possible, like my ama tried.  Imposible! kids don’t let you ignore it. One of the biggest candy hoarding days of the year, parents need to recognize, verdad que si? 

Planning Halloween 

As a little girl, it was the one holiday that I rallied for as far as dressing up. Don’t get me wrong, I was not trying to be a princess or any silly girly character. But the unwritten and unspoken rule was that to trick or treat you had to be in costume. I would start working on my mom and sisters a few days ahead. I needed three things to make my day a success. Primero, I needed permission and a chaperone or partner to go out and knock on doors for candy. Luego, I needed money for the yearly carnival and finally, I needed a costume. Halloween was up to me, my ama didn’t highlight the day in any way shape or form. She kind of dreaded the day, because all the kids in the barrio knew she had her tiendita, and they expected some great candy from her store. Halloween almost always meant bankruptcy for her negocio.

The week before Halloween the kids were talking about what they were gonna dress up as, or what costumes their mom had bought them. I was always embarrassed that I wasn’t getting a cool costume so every year I said I wasn’t dressing up. Every year I said it was dumb and every year I didn’t mean it. Y cada ano I’d give into the pull of trick or treating. 

Now that I think about it, my ama  always enjoyed my silly chicanadas that I called costumes. I would jimmy rig a costume mostly out of my apas clothes and get into my sister’s makeup. Que one year a baby, another year a hobo, a fat man, a farmer. Basically the same idea always with a different name.

Photo by Daisy Anderson on Pexels.com

12 Year Old Transition

In small towns I think growing up and getting to that serious behavior that a 12 year old should have, takes a little longer. I was not serious about growing up and morphing into a teenager. I didn’t care much about being cool, I couldn’t start thinking of makeup, gracias a Dios! Wearing Makeup was taboo for us younger girls.Silly boys weren’t noticing me yet. Pero, I was real serious about getting lots of candy. 

One particular year, I had secured permission and a partner to trick or treat, my sister Patty was gonna keep an eye on me. I always had to work extra hard on begging and pleading with Patty. She hated taking care of me, she was already in that cool teenage age and walking clear across town to trick or treat was not cool!  I promised to give her a lot of candy and quien sabe what else I promised, but in the end I prevailed upon her. 


DIY Costumes

All I had left to create was my costume for my night of fun and candy.  I had the same old options so I think I decided on a combo costume of an old fat hobo man, muy original verdad? Being giddy with excitement I decided to go extra on the fat and stuffed my pants and shirt, bien exagerada, I could barely move. I was ready, with my big bag on hand, we left. The getting to the carnival part is a fuzzy memory, I’m guessing that somebody gave us a ride there because I can’t imagine Patty agreeing to all that work. Anyway, we were at the carnival for a short time since my pocket book was very light. It didn’t matter to me anyway, I was anxious to trick or treat a lot of kids already all over town, I didn’t want to miss out. 

To maximize on trick or treating candy you have to have a lot of energy and a good plan. Patty wasn’t interested in the plan I had mapped out in my head. She gave me one option. Leaving the school grounds and walking past the middle school and the elementary school, all connected, then turning left would land me on the West side. Going further, past the Circle K then turning right going several blocks further got me to the Rich side of town. Guess what Patty was pushing for? She was getting crabby and I was getting anxious, especially since I was pretty slow with my fat man costume. The padding kept creeping down my leg, almost tripping me. I kept having to re-stuff myself and hold on to my backside to keep the pillow from falling out. 

El Cucuy

But God had mercy on me and we got to several houses that gave lots of candy before she headed us toward home. I milked it as much as I could knocking on doors as we made our way home. I was whiny and grunting and she was so mad that I had tricked her into doing this, we were both pretty tired by the time we reached the railroad tracks. Suddenly our senses were very alert and we had to put off our tired feelings, and watch out for danger, of the El Cucuy kind. We were on Mainstreet, it was way too dark to take the shortcut. Huge semi trucks occasionally passed by and we so appreciated the bright lights those trucks flashed, we stayed dangerously close to the pavement, hugging it. I, the “fat man” was behind Patty and every time I heard crackling, or scraping sounds, I was sure El Cucuy was behind me, I couldn’t turn around, it would be my demise, so I quietly whined, hating my sissy lala emotions.  I’m not the hugging type, but that night I was ready to pounce on my sister for support. Talk about a Halloween nightmare on Mainstreet, hijole! Crossing the tracks and walking that long dark road just before we saw the houses of the barrio was maybe a 10 minute walk but my stuffing and the darkness made it the longest walk ever. Suddenly, I could appreciate why my ama banned us from being out at night. Halloween was one of the few exempted days and I wondered why that day was ok? We walked fast as I was trying to keep my belly intact. 

It wasn’t too late in the night, but those railroad tracks and the empty lots made it the perfect scene in a scary movie, I had imagined it all in those few minutes. Such relief flooded us when we entered  the safety of our barrio. Kids were still out and about and Patty loosened up. I took advantage and knocked on a couple more doors in my hood. All was well that Halloween. Pero que susto!

Booty

We got home exhausted. I tossed my hefty candy bag onto the table, happy with my loot. Oh how sweet home was. I plopped myself down on the chair in the dining room, I was coming undone. So as I was pulling the stuffing out of me my ama was laughing at the image I created.

Ama: Como te fue?

Me: Ama, fue el día más feliz de mi vida!

My mother let out a gleeful carcajada.. Her way of laughing started from the bottom of her belly and rolled out past her mouth. I loved to make her laugh, it was always so contagious. She had  quite a laugh out loud moment.

 Counting all my worldly experiences of all my 12 years of living, I had declared, this had been the happiest day of my entire existence. I had already forgotten the pain in the butt it had been to walk. El Cucuy didn’t come for me, the tracks and all my fears were forgotten. 

LOL


I was pretty proud of myself whenever she told the story of my “happiest day of my life”. I’m so happy to have that treasure in my vault. The contagious laughter has carried on through her grandson Jonathan, everytime he has that LOL gut roaring laughter I remember my feisty ama.

What is your favorite trick or treating memory?

Holding on to My Dad’s Prayer

These past few weeks have been trying times. Sickness hovers over our lives trying to scare us into a corner of not living but existing. Hard times and bad news, make us desperate por tener un momento de tranquilidad. As we hold our breath not knowing what to expect, tears wash out and my heart aches for those loved ones I will not see again until eternity. Not knowing the appointed time, the wait feels endless. 

 I will not lie and say I’ve sat and “waited” for the day I see my ama again, she’s been gone for over 30 years, but I have longed through the years for that mother/daughter relationship & connection. I have a sister in Christ, my  friend who has five beautiful daughters, and oh, I can tell those girls have connected with their momma. Me acuerdo, when I was a new homemaker, “building” my own home. I was barely a few weeks on the journey, I was given a chance to call my ama. I was having a cooking crisis and she rescued me, the stroke she had (a post for another time) didn’t hinder her from coming to my aid.

In her cooking stilo, como todas las mexicanas she set me straight: 

Me: “Ama, ¿cuáles son los chiles que se usan para la carne con chile?”

Ama: “Pues ¿cuales son los que tienes? “

I had forgotten those cooking lessons with my ama! The main lesson was work with what you have, but make it work! I wonder if I’ll be able to share with her my mothering experience with my one daughter? Aguanten me por favor, Un poco culeca. Mi ama would see my daughter and fall in love with her immediately.

Y mis hermanas, Patty and Lupe, se adelantaron! They rushed ahead of me and Marina almost 13 years ago and beat us to heavens gates. I won’t pretend that I wasn’t angry. I had quite a few things to teach my “older” sisters and they me. In the middle of my busy life, while we 4 sisters were enjoying and sharing the episodes of life,  they finished  their race within 3 months of each other. In shock I had to say goodbye for now. Pero sabes, death always feels like that, when you expect it, and while you wait for your loved one to pass, you’re still shocked by it, when you don’t expect it, it knocks you down and takes your breath away.

My apa, no tenia prisa, gracias a Dios , almost took him a century to walk this road on earth. Geographically he was in very small places, almost insignificant, but he broke up much fallow ground and planted many seeds of experience and left quite a legacy of children and grandchildren to carry his name on. Eso! Don Manuel!

 He has only just gone home 8 months ago and the void of his departure esta muy tierno aun. In our home our backroom is still “Tatas room”

I will say that I’ve occupied myself with a goal, a hope or God’s plan to see them again.

My Dad’s Prayer of Gratitude

This long season of pestilence has caused me to examine life.  What are the things that I’m grateful for? The big things and the minute details of my life that I tend to take for granted sometimes, like my daily bread and the very air I breathe that God gives. It was a solidifying reminder to finds my dads prayer.

For as long as  I could remember my apa prayed this prayer at meal times. I can picture him now at our table, ready and waiting to see if he would be called upon to pray. 

“Gracias te damos Senor por estos alimentos que no nos hacen falta.  También  Señor te pedimos por todos aquellos que no tienen alimentos. Ayúdalos y dales la mano, no los desampares. Perdónanos nuestros pecados , pero  siempre que se haga tu santa voluntad. Amén”

Sometimes a line or two was switched up, but it had the same meaning:  

“Gracias te damos Senor por estos alimentos que no nos pones en la mesa.  También  Señor te pedimos por todos aquellos que no tienen alimentos. Ayúdalos y dales la mano, no los desampares. Perdóna nuestros ofensas, pero  siempre que se haga tu santa voluntad. Amén”

 As if someone switched on the lights,  I have truly paid close attention to my apas prayer and realized how profound it truly was. Too many times we throw our prayers out to God without any real conviction, especially at mealtimes, were hungry and we’ve been waiting for that good food so were in a hurry. Hijole! Imaginate, as God sits down to eat with us and hears our “Thank you Jesus, bless this food” my fork halfway to my mouth already, I say “amen”. Maybe it’s because I’ve had a good morning in my prayer already  that I am careless when I thank God for his provision. Whatever the reason, prayer at mealtimes in my life has been lackadaisical. Once in a while, I whisper in my mind, I really am grateful Lord, y si estoy agradecida! despite my mouthful.  My apas prayer has reminded me to be grateful for my life, for the blessings and most importantly grateful for the Blesser.  

Aguanta otro ratito while I unpack his prayer. 

“Estos alimentos que no nos hacen falta”

Thankful for his provision. These days as many fight for their lives, the very air we breathe is a gift from God. ALL our basic needs are remembered in this simple line.

También  Señor te pedimos por todos aquellos que no tienen alimentos. Ayúdalos y dales la mano, no los desampares”

Thankful that we can approach the very throne of God for our needs and our loved ones. They’re too weak, too tired, too much in pain to ask for themselves, but we can stand in the gap for them. A thoughtful prayer that remembers those that are struggling and asks God to also help them in their time of need. Orita mismo, I can think of several friends, loved ones, and friends of friends that are in desperate need.

Perdóna nuestros ofensas”

Thankful that God, the creator of heaven and earth graciously forgives our trespasses. I find it interesting that this line for forgiveness is after asking for the basic needs for ourselves and others. Asking forgiveness of our daily trespasses, my apa knew that even while our needs are endless so is God’s  comfort and grace. A prayer that humbly acknowledges our sinful state that without God in our lives we would be wretched and lost. 

I’m so glad that finally my heart has grabbed ahold of this prayer and I agree with Dad in it and say yes and amen!

 Today let these words  provoke you into true thanksgiving.

Mi Apa – Manuel Zepeda Solano

Don Manuel

My dad went home on a Sunday afternoon; December 20th at 2:15 (He asked everyday when he would go home). He had just turned the corner into his 96 birthday. I don’t think a short post can uncover much about the life of a 96 year old man, so this is only a snippet of his journey here on earth.

Manuel, my apa, was born just after the Mexican Revolution (The Mexican Revolution! Pancho Villa?! Wow! I was super intrigued to know that his grandfather and father had been in and around the fringes of that dangerous era.) The Revolution had brought government changes and economic changes for some, but in the end, El Pobre remained poor and struggling. In those days Mexico was bursting with riches in precious metals; gold and silver and he always said “Los Americanos supieron como sacarlo” because the Americans had the money and knowledge to invest in those gold mines. In the Central Mexican hills and valleys of Jalisco through the quick response and hustle of the Americans, a mining town was birthed; El Mineral del Amparo. (My dad always said “los gringos”, I discovered that it was the description of all the whites; European and American who lived and worked in the town). He would share his stories with me during our visits and when he splashed history facts I always went home to research them. One day, as he began to tell me another story, I mentioned how impressed I was about his knowledge of history, I thought I was being generous by telling him that his facts were right, according to Google. With a twinkle in his eye and not a little indignation, he laughed and said “You’re double checking my facts on my history?” Yikes!)

My grandfather brought his new wife to El Amparo and here they started their life together, The Mining Company was his way of surviving outside of working in an hacienda. My dad was the first of nine children. (Since most Mexican families were this large, it’s not something to wow over,) As I heard some stories, I have been amazed at the resilience of man. My abuelo worked hard in the mines and my abuela was very resourceful helping ends meet in the home. Tortillas and frijoles, essentials in every Mexican home.

El Amparo

Dad shared many stories and descriptions of his childhood in this little mining town. Here it is hidden in the valleys, obscure, yet not without culture. He told me of the cinemas and theatres,  the large mercado, the mill for grinding maiz, Don Lucios ice cream shop and, the taxi driver (really, it sounded more like Uber, before Uber :D) See the town had to be outfitted for the Americans that lived there and the working Mexicans mostly enjoyed it from afar, but every once in a while with a centavo or two my dad would go right smack in the middle of the town square and partake. There in the center of it all, the boys would enjoy a game of canicas, a time to gamble their marbles.  Whenever he described it, it was always with a bit of pride that he too had experienced the rich culture of society; he went to the cinema a time or two and he saw the theatre from afar.

Wandering

My Dad wanted to see more of the world. He visited his grandfather who ran a huerta and learned about planting and harvesting. For a season he wandered trying to find his place in the world, picking up various farming skills along the way. Then, he heard the call for el Norte and responded immediately. Baja California was the bridge that brought him into Los Estados Unidos de America.

Familia

Dad went back home to Jalisco and got married, had two boys and went back to Baja, (Wow! What happened to the love story right? That’s for another post) where he spent a few years living in Mexicali and working across the border. It was probably a good transition time for mom, besides, she was busy having babies! During this time their family grew from four to eight (They were a fruitful couple, and they weren’t done because two more would come, pero, on the other side :D)

Settling Down

He landed in the Imperial Valley and stayed for the next seventy years! He connected with men, patrones that gave him learning opportunities. He learned about agriculture and intricate details of the irrigation system for watering the fields and he also learned about horses and machinery. He earned his way most of his life this way. He worked for the city of Calipatria, he was a night watchman for a cattle company, he had lots of work experience. (You can imagine my reaction when the young man trying to get details on his death certificate said can we write that he was a “farm hand”. All that wealth of experience reduced to that?!) My dad’s favorite experiences were with horses and sheep. One of those patrones hired him to herd sheep in the mountains of Utah. Although it was a lonely job, he loved the whole vaquero swag. His companion in those months out in the cold Sierra mountains was a sheep dog named Cazam. He had already started sporting the cowboy hat and Levi jeans but this season seemed to legitimize his stilo and honestly, it suited him well, my apa was a handsome fellow.

Manuel Zepeda Solano

Tamale Conversations With My Dad

Good Memories are essential

One beautiful sunny San Diego afternoon, I took Dad out to get his vitamin D; sunshine and fresh air. My apa is 96 years old and suffers from dementia  and needs full time care. This day he was enjoying the birds and the garden. Right there, in the midst of the birds and the butterflies,  all of a sudden, it hit me that I knew nothing about my father’s tamal experiences!

(Ya se, Ya se! I know you’re wondering why tamales are so important. Well because, tamales have become quite relevant to me lately as I’ve discovered “purchasing tamales” I feel your SMH disbelief, for this Mexican American girl, but I’ve become acquainted with Texas Lone Star Tamales, and I’ve tasted and enjoyed the luxury of eating delicious tamales that I didn’t labor over.)

 I had to know something about mi apas tamal experiences. How was that possible? Maiz, masa, tortillas, these were an important part of my dad’s daily life. I’m sure there had to be a tamal story in all those memories.

Traigan los tamales!

I threw the tamal conversation out, pushing dad to unwrap those memories.  

“Apa do you like tamales? Did your mother; mi abuela Rosario, make them?” 

Of course, I knew she had to make tamales, I felt silly to even ask.

 Dad drew his eyes away from the chirping birds to answer the obvious. 

“Yes I do, and she did.” 

He turned his head back to the singing of the birds, I could tell tamales didn’t start up the engine of his memory train, he needed another boost.

“Apa, what was it like?” 

He looked at me like I was from Mars. Didn’t little boys or young men pay attention to the details of making tamales? (Probably not) Weren‘t tamales a big deal in his world? Of course they were! Maiz was an essential necessity for survival still, 1930s in Mexico was exceptionally difficult for raising a large family. (Maybe he just forgot the conversation?)

“You know, what was it like when your mom made tamales? Did you help?”

 “I don’t really know. I remember she was busy. When she made them, she was up and down, kind of everywhere. Look! Those look like crows, chattering away, busy trying to get their meal. Do you hear them?” 

Now what? That was it? If that was the whole tamal story it was pretty bland. What exactly went with all of the busyness he saw during tamal making? Where were all the details? I kept envisioning my own memories, my mother leaning over the olla filled with masa, a huge pot that she was almost too short to stand over. Stirring and kneading as she prepared it. Did the smell of cooking meats fill his mother’s cooking area? 

Tamales Blancos

“Mmmm, what kind of tamales did she make?”

Dad stared at the birds with regret, sad as he remembered his ama.

 “Pork. Well, I don’t really know, maybe chicken, yes there had to be chicken. Definitely she made pork though.”

Now we both listened to the singing of the birds getting lost in those tamal moments.

 “You’re probably right, but maybe she  made chicken tamales like my mom did. Which ones did you like best?”

Now, he seemed to be rebooting those long term memories, evoking those images of his mother making and serving tamales.

Tamales Blancos (Does that mean gringo tamales?)

“ Well, I’m sure they were all very good. But the ones I remember clearly are those tamales blancos for sure. 

Yes! I struck gold! Oooh, my abuela had her own special tamales.

“Oh yea? White tamales. They didn’t have any kind of chile sauce huh? 

My father’s usually serious face lit up with a smirk on his face and a twinkle in his eyes.

 “That’s right. No sauce. No meat. Just the masa, (Wow! What would those “masa to filling” ratio police say to that?!) kneaded and prepared with a perfect amount of salt!”

What?! These were mi abuelas special tamales? These are the ones he remembered most?

“White tamales; plain salted masa salted wrapped in the corn husk. Why did she do that?”

The smile remained on his face as he explained.

  “Those were the ones mi ama made for us kids, a lot of mouths to feed.”

With nine children to feed and wanting to be hospitable to her vecinos she had to stretch the wealth, Ah! my abuelas tamales blancos, were a practical meal that kept everyone fed.

“ Did you like them?” 

Dad looked around and lowered his voice.

 “Not really, but I made the most of it. After all, that was what was offered. She would have us line up to get our meal; in this case our tamal, and we’d go off to eat it”

I was kind of feeling sorry for him, imagining that I probably wouldn’t have eaten them.

  “Doesn’t sound too exciting to eat a cooked ball of masa.” 

“She served them with coffee. (There it is again, coffee for the kids, yikes!) It was the only way I could get it down.”

“Wow dad! So you never had the meat tamales she made?”

Dad’s eyes sparked with mischief and his eyebrows danced as he remembered those tamales. 

“I did. A la desquidada, on the sly, when she wasn’t looking I’d snatch a meat one. It was easy since there were eight other kids distracting her for a tamal. Those were the good tamales. Si, they were pork and I didn’t need coffee.”

Manuel Zepeda (December 1924 – December 2020)

O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
1 Corinthians 15:55 KJV

Learning To Cook With Your Mexican Mama

Learning To Cook With Your Mexican Mama, Or With Your Mexican-American Mama

Since Christmas time is a wonderful time of different holiday dishes and traditions, I thought it would be a good time to tell you about my learning to cook “journey”. (Anyone outside of the Mexican-American circle would call it a roller coaster!)

I’ve been cooking since I was barely a teenager. (As a young roommate I never shared the ‘wealth’ of my knowledge with my roomies, since I believed knowing how to cook meant following recipes) I cannot say I love cooking, especially the way I was inducted into the kitchen, but my ego is strutting; bien culeca when someone says “Oooh are those Rosies enchi’s?”.

It all started when I was almost fourteen years old, the summer before high school, when my whole life would turn upside down. My older siblings were all going off to work with mom in the grapevines of Coachella Valley, but I was not old enough to get a work permit. However, I was old enough to cook all by myself in the hot kitchen and so began my culinary journey.

Cooking class in my Mexican mother’s home was very informal. (I just felt my daughter roll her eyes at the obvious truth) Chores done and laundry continual, Mom would pull out some meat and say, 

“When this defrosts, go ahead and cook it and serve it with frijoles de la olla today. No need to refry the beans today and don’t forget to make the tortillas first, they’ll stay warm” 

“What?! Ok, Wait, what do I do with the meat?” 

Without even looking back at me, she’d say,

 “Con cebollita picada y pimienta. Ah, y un poco de sal. No se te pase!”

“That’s it? Some diced onion, pepper and salt? How do I know if I have enough salt or too much in it?” 

She’d put down the laundry basket, look at me and say,

“You have to taste it Rosalba. If you need to add a little something, check the fridge, maybe some diced jalapeno, or garlic. There’s comino in the cupboard.” 

She’d go right back to the endless laundry.

“Dad’s gonna be here just after noon, so be ready to serve” 

That was the lesson. After staring at the meat, which was seeping blood, I wondered how I was going to create something delicious like Mom always did. I had no choice but to go for it and cook.

I cut the meat into small bites, I could not get all the fat out and that worried me. Still, I seasoned it with a dash of pepper, salt, and a sprinkle of cumin. Then, I just tossed it all into the pan with diced onions. That fat that I struggled to cut off, simmered and blended with the onion. As it continued to cook down it blended with the meat juices and created a gravy.  It looked tasty, hmmm. I added a dash more salt, and let it simmer.

Mom came by and stirred the simmering pan, tasted, and added a dash more pepper and cumin. She lifted the towel my warm flour tortillas rested in, (I forgot to mention that making dough for tortillas had perhaps been my first lesson in the kitchen, a constant practice, since in our home we had fresh flour tortillas everyday) she covered them again and keeping a straight face she walked toward the door where the laundry waited.

“You’ll definitely have to practice rolling out your tortillas, round is the shape we’re aiming for.” 

Dad came in, washed his hands and sat down to be served. I held my breath as I brought his plate to him. He uncovered the tortillas, lifted it up high and smirked.

“This looks like the seat of your bicycle” (rolling tortillas was not my constant practice a whole different struggle)

He rolled it and bit into it and took a fork full of meat and beans to his mouth. He ate everything on his plate, then took the last bicycle shaped tortilla and cleanup the gravy, and spoke.

“That was good. Thank you”

After that, I felt like I was a culinary graduate! (after all my apa had just approved me, every daughter’s dream) Now, I could conquer any belly, taste bud or picky person. Of course, I quickly realized that for basic training in my amas kitchen, the first lesson was that it was not as scary or difficult as it seemed, and it was nowhere near impossible. I would have to watch very carefully as she taught me to make the other Mexican essentials of her kitchen, the refried beans, the Mexican rice, the salsas, the sauces for the meats and on and on.

(My daughter in-law also says that she has to keep a really keen eye on my hands as I work in the kitchen because all of a sudden, “Le voy a echar un poquito de este” But I neglect to tell her what the “este” is beforehand or how much of it I added, making her learning experience much like mine)

Although cooking is not my favorite thing to do, I truly enjoy when others enjoy my cooking, then I see its value and love it.


Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com
Mexican-American Girl Logo

Mexican and American

Mexican Flag
Mexican Flag Photo by Tim Mossholder on Pexels.com
American Flag Photo by Sharefaith on Pexels.com

Mexican and American – Both can exist together nicely.

What generation do you fall under? First? Second? Or Third generation? When does a hyphen get removed and a hyphenated American become just American? I think that depends on individual preferences. Honestly, I don’t always use my hyphen card, and you know what’s crazy? In other countries, (other than Mexico) I am just American!  Don’t get me wrong, I know I’m American, but through the years I’ve walked in mine fields of coined terms and technical vocabulary that I’ve used very non-technically, either applied to myself or to someone in my Mexican-American path. 

First-generation American, which I applied to myself, because I assumed that since I was the first of my entire immediate family to be born in the United States I should be first, especially since I’m almost the last of my siblings, I held on to this. For years I’ve said “Yes, I’m a first-generation American,” with a fixed conviction that I was. Then I read the Wikipedia definition: (my sons teacher always warned him about where his source of information was coming from) “According to the U.S Census Bureau, first generation refers to those who are foreign born, second generation refers to those with at least one foreign-born parent, and third-and-higher generation includes those with two U.S. native parents.” 

So, not only am I not first,  my parents were not just Mexican, they were considered immigrants! By whom? That would be the previous generations of immigrants now called just Americans. Then, as I am processing this information, something else hit me. All my older siblings were considered immigrant children! Raised in the U.S, all of them American citizens, with kids of their own that do not even speak Spanish. It hit me hard, that I was raised in a mixed home; Mexican and American. 

Why is this so relevant now?

Because as I sit and describe my Mexican American-ness I realize that some things were not necessarily spoken of, but lived. Just the facts: Mexican parents with  six immigrant kids and later two American born kids. A home with mostly Spanish speaking until us younger kids got older and Spanish thinking switched to English and the languages mingled; also called Spanglish.  Of course, always speaking only in Spanish when speaking to our mother. We didn’t go around telling our friends or teachers about our home life, but it showed in our upbringing. 

It is my experience that many hyphenated American families either incorporate both cultures or stubbornly insist on just one, thankfully our parents allowed us to exercise our American after we had established our Mexican.