Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Musings on the Mexican Side

Recently as I've been looking into my Cherokee ancestry (and the difficulties proving it), my mind has wandered at times to my Mexican ancestry.

Although I'm closer to the Mexican side of the family than I am to my European side (where the Cherokee mixed into), I've not felt half the "pull" towards my Mexican ancestry that I have toward the Cherokee.

I've never been stirred by the deserts of the southwest like I have by the Smoky Mountains (and the latter even before I ever visited them, while the former I've spent time visiting since I was a child).

A few days ago, however, a Yaqui friend posted a video on Facebook about the ongoing protest against the government's underhanded selling of the sacred Apache land, the Oak Flat, to a foreign mining corporation. When I saw the post I found myself moved.

There was a stirring and feeling of "home" that I haven't felt before. I felt an affinity or something with the Arizona Natives. I prayed about it and realized that it's because Mexican Indians are part of the same land. That land is in my blood! Those Natives are my relations! Those lands were all their lands. And they are my lands, too.

I have a lot of different thoughts about my Mexican and Mexican Indian ancestry. There's so much there, yet all mixed together and all difficult to pinpoint. I know there is Aztec. And now that I've seen a picture of my grandfather's father, I am almost sure that there is Spanish as well. He was much lighter-skinned, whereas my grandmother's side was darker and looked more "Indian".

I have various thoughts about the "Mexican" side as well. Last weekend I went to the city's Fiesta Mexicana that the consulate puts on every year. The culture is such a mix of Spanish colonialism and indigenous Native... it's beautiful but somewhat foreign to me, and again there's just not the immediate draw and pull that American Indian and Cherokee culture have had for me. But there is a wonder or a wondering that I feel: I want to know it more. But I feel more like an outsider, oddly, than I do with American Indian culture.

But the Spanish... Once when walking through the park coming home from a church, my wife and I happened upon a group of local Catholics and Spanish missionaries having an outdoor worship service. The way they played guitar and the progressions of the chords and melody was beautiful, stirring and haunting to my soul. But what surprised me most was seeing the Spanish missionaries. For the first time in my life, I felt like I was looking at people who looked just like me. Dark brown eyes, dark brown hair, white skin... I can't describe how that made me feel. Just a "They look like me!"... and it moved me so deeply (even now) that I nearly cried thinking about it.

I wish I could have seen them again. But I don't know what I would have said. I would have this urge just to hug them. Questions like "tell me about your culture and homeland" and describing how it moved me can sound pretty weird to anyone who hasn't been on a "heritage journey".

Once I met a young Mexican man at local sushi bar (which I had never visited before) and we talked for awhile. I wanted to know more about Mexico, Mexican life, culture, feelings... I wonder if it came across oddly to him, haha. I think Natives in the United States are more accustomed to people like me—those who have been separated from the culture and community of their ancestors but have had a longing awakened inside. Spanish people or those from other countries may not be accustomed to descendants approaching them with a hunger for reconnection.

Oh well. I'll take things as they come, learn as I go, and try not to overwhelm people with my hunger. (smile)

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