The other day I watched this hilarious video from Buzzfeed that was posted on Facebook:
I look generally white, and I only found out I was half-Mexican when I was 26, so I've missed out on most of this fun. (Actually, I've been on the "giving" end of it more often than not!) But the video made me think...
One thing I've noticed in recent years is that I've had a kind of tendency to suddenly share that I'm half-Mexican when talking with Mexicans, other Latin@s, or Spanish people as a way to quickly relate to them. I wonder if this is similar to how people say "My great-grandmother was a Cherokee princess" as a way to connect? Hmm, well, maybe sometimes. But that might be different, because often people in America's majority culture say it assuming that they understand "being Indian." ("Hey cool, I'm an NDN too!")
I know that I understand almost nothing about being Mexican. I think that my habit of suddenly sharing it may be more of a way to throw myself at the person in the hopes of connecting and learning more. Because I feel like I didn't have anything. But I wonder if saying it like I do sounds awkward, or if people hear others speak like me and get tired of it.
I also feel the shame of not speaking Spanish. Granted, I've lived in Japan 13+ years and haven't gotten terribly far in the language here, but I don't feel as bad about that. Hah, my father pressured me to learn Spanish as I got older, but I had no idea why.
I often joke that I had a divine epiphany after trying to study Japanese: Spanish is really EASY!
Seriously, if I had two years and some Spanish-speakers around me, shoot, it would be a breeze compared to Japanese! I took two years of Spanish in high school, but just messed around like all the other students, really only paying attention to friends who'd teach me swear words in Spanish (or Korean).
Still, I could get a little from the two Spanish classes, and though I didn't actually study, it did come easier to me than to most of the other students. I never complained about the masculine/feminine gender words. People gripe about them a lot, but I don't think it's so bad. And one area I observed that I was better in was pronunciation. Hearing people doing the 'American gringo' accent would really irritate the heck out of me. It irritates me here in Japan, too—since Japanese and Spanish have the exact same vowel sounds. (That has come in useful here in Japan, but pronouncing Japanese well also backfires on me sometimes because listeners assume I can understand more than I really do, and respond back to me with things I struggle to catch!)
I'm certain these small advantages came from hearing my father & grandparents speak Spanish when I was little and visited them in Phoenix. They used it in particular whenever they wanted to hide something from me, haha. But I got the sound of it down (well, at least in a northern Mexican or southwestern US style).
The shame (or rather, the sorrow) I feel about not speaking the language is probably because of the closeness to my Mexican relations. It feels like really, I could have and should have gotten it. My Cherokee relatives became separated from the tribe probably two centuries ago. But my Mexican relatives left Mexico just about one century ago, and the language stayed alive in the family until my generation (my cousins don't speak it much, either; it's kind of sad to realize we are the generation where the language dies).
As I've thought on my Mexican heritage and several reasons why not much culture was passed down to me, a couple of times I've felt cheated or something like that. And I've thought I might be angry. But then, curiously, when I pray about it and look inside, I find that my grievance is not about the loss Mexican culture so much as it is from growing up in a divorced home.
So I take all this back to Jesus. I am quiet, I look inside, and I listen to Him in my spirit, and I hear a sound I can't quite describe. It sets me at peace, and there is just relief in me. There's still a tinge of sadness about the loss of Mexican culture and Spanish language—having been so close to it in my family but missing out. But then there is peace in Him about this.
Yes, I want to get to know Mexican people and Mexico better. That has become a deep desire in my heart. But I've been called more to my northern American Indian relatives. (Maybe because they had many matrilineal societies and my lineage comes through my mother's side? Haha, just kidding! Maybe...!)
Getting to know my Mexican familia and relatives is a restoration that I know will happen in His time, either in this world or the next. That is safe in His hands.
Gracias, Señor. ᏩᏙ, ᏲᏩ.