Embracing Your Roots and Culture

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As I look at my son, and see the beauty within him: that he’s a child born out of love, and brought into this world with the richness and greatness of having three cultures: Black, Puerto Rican and Ecuadorian. I reflect upon my own life; my roots and culture. I was born in New York, to a Puerto Rican mom, and an Ecuadorian dad. As far as I can remember I was always proud of roots, my culture; heck I was even more thrilled that I had another culture other than being Puerto Rican. As an adult, I am still proud of my roots, and continue to embrace where I came from. So now that we have a son, I want to instill in him this same pride.

Unfortunately, not everyone embraces their roots and cultures; and most of the time deny it. Puerto Ricans are mixed race of Spaniards, African slaves, and Taíno Indians (native indians). Even my own aunts and uncles (on my Mom’s side) denied that there could be any “black” in them; but science came back to prove them wrong.

My Grandmother participated in The Origins of the Mitochondrial DNA of Puerto Rico Project, sponsored by the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez campus. They were conducting a series of DNA study and interviews about issues related to heritage and race in Puerto Rico. The professors Dr. Anayra Santory and Dr. Luis A. Avilés, were leading the investigation and visited my Grandmother at home, and requested her authorization to conduct a DNA testing with a strand of her hair to determine her race.

Every member in the family kept saying that my Grandmother was Spaniard, and my Grandmother herself said she was a Taíno Indian. She has a elongated face, light-caramel skin, straight hair, long nose. The test results came back, and the results were in “drum roll please” she was African. Wow, I was happy that I was Puerto Rican, Ecuadorian and now African! My other family members, not so much (I even mailed them a copy of the report! {giggles}); even my Grandmother wasn’t thrilled with the results, oh well! It is what it is, right?

Which brought me to think of phrase that I often heard back in Puerto Rico: “¿y tu abuela aonde ‘ta?” Which means “and where is your grandmother?”

This my beautiful Mother with my beloved Grandmother.

These are the DNA results:

In Puerto Rico, there’s a lot of racism amongst the Puerto Ricans. The dark-skinned Puerto Ricans will ask “¿Y tu agüela, aonde ejtá?” (where is your grandmother?) to the lighter-skinned Puerto Ricans to remind them of their mixed heritage: African. Especially when they deny their roots, and the color of their skin. At the end of the day, there is no denying your Abuela (therefore, your ancestors).

A good friend of mine shared this poem with me (that I had long forgotten). You can find the Spanish version here.

English translation:

Dinga and Mandinga By Fernando Fortunato Vizcarrondo

And your grandma, where is she?

Yesterday you called me Negro, And today I will respond to thee: My mom sits in the living room, And your grandma, where is she?

My hair is kinky, Yours’ is like silk, Your father’s hair is straight, And your grandma, where is she?

Your color came out white, And your cheeks are pink; Your lips are thin, And your grandma, where is she?

You say that my lips are big And they’re always red? But tell me, in the name of the Virgin, And your grandma, where is she?

Since your girl is white, You take her out a lot… And I feel like yelling to you: And your grandma, where is she?

You like Foxtrot, And I like ‘Bruca Manigua’, You display yourself as white And your grandma, where is she?

You are white on the outside and got into High Society Fearing that someone may get to know The mother of your own mami. Here, who does not have Dinga has Mandinga ha ha ha haaa! So again, I ask you, And your grandma, where is she?

Yesterday you called me Negro, Wanting to embarrass me. My grandma steps out to the living room, And yours hidden from everybody. The poor woman is dying Seeing herself so abused. Even your dog barks at her If she ever steps out to the living room. And I know her very well! Her name is Mrs. Tata You hide her in the kitchen, Because Negro is really… she.

The English translation was found here.

We’re not the only race that has a mix of different races, and sadly enough many deny their race, or where they come from; therefore, not embracing their roots and culture. I encourage you to look deeper into your family roots, you’d be surprise where you really come from.

And your grandmother where is she? “¿Y tu agüela, aonde ejtá?”

Would love to hear about your own experiences and thoughts. Please comment and share!

My Challenges Raising A Bilingual Child

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For many years before I got married, and had a child of my own I always stressed to my cousin and sister living in the US the importance of speaking to their children in Spanish! I literally badgered them every time I talked to them, about what an advantage it is to know two languages, that Spanish was part of their identity; and that they will learn English regardless; and speaking to them in Spanish was a priority. Both of them agreed on one thing, that it was hard! (Little did I know!)

Fast forward to 2012, and here I am married to a Black man, living in the US, with a 4 yr. old mixed child; whom I’m literally struggling to teach Spanish to. I remembered when I was pregnant with my baby, and I told my husband numerous times that our child was going to speak two languages, know and learn to love his two cultures.

In the most profound and deepest corner of my heart, I feel that I have failed miserably to teach my son how to speak in Spanish. I am the only one who speaks Spanish at home, and all of my Spanish speaking family members live far away. It’s just my husband, and my in-laws. So I have found myself speaking to our child in English most of the time instead of my native language: Spanish. Now, I understand my cousin and sister, and how challenging it has been to speak in Spanish in a predominant English speaking environment.

So in a conscientious effort to teach my son Spanish, I bought the book: 7 Steps to Raising a Bilingual Child by Naomi Steiner, M.D. with Susan L. Hayes. I must say this book has given me some hope.

I’ve decided to start using the “Language Boundaries” method. The author suggest that I speak to my child in a specific situation, such as: time of day (mealtime, weekends), location, or depending on an activity. I have opted to use this method right before bedtime. It’s the time of the day, that my son is more receptive, and is winding down from the day’s activities. I speak to him in Spanish, and read bedtime stories in Spanish as well. We say our prayers in Spanish, and it brings such joy to my heart to hear my little one saying, “Angel de la guarda, mi dulce compañía…” (Guardian Angel prayer) in Spanish.

Although, our son speaks English. He understands basic words, knows his numbers and colors in Spanish; and before bedtime, he goes to his “Papi” gives him a kiss, and a hug, and says, “Buenas noches Papi.”

I know it’s going to be a long road ahead for us, but my hopes have rekindled in raising a bilingual child, especially when I hear our son say something in Spanish. ♫♫♫ It’s music to my ears!♫♫♫

 

Do you have any suggestions, ideas or challenges that you have raising a bilingual child? I would love to hear from you! Feel free to comment below.

I’m an avid reader and follower of Bicultural Mom, and every Monday she has a series of topics related to multicultural families. This Monday’s Multicultural Blog Hop is about Bilingualism/Bilingual Parenting.

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Our Son Has a Pen Pal!

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I belong to a Mommy Group at CafeMom. A Mommy in the group asked if anyone was interested in having their child be her child’s pen pal. Of course, I jumped on it; and little one now has a pen pal! Though he can’t write yet, neither can his pen pal (he’s a year older), we (Mommies) do the writing for them. They exchange stickers, drawings they make, and letters written by us but with our child’s own thoughts and their own words. They also have pictures of each other, so they can put a face to the name.

I’m very excited about this, because as a child I had pen pals, and loved writing and receiving letters. In this digital age, everything is text message, social media or email; and the art of writing has been lost. Knowing that my son gets very excited when he checks the mailbox and sees his name on an envelope or package gives me a glimpse of hope, that maybe just maybe as he gets older he will continue to write his own letters! He has a new friend, a pen pal AJ so that’s a start!

This is AJ’s letter:

His letter to AJ:

There’s one sentence that filled my heart with joy, when my son was telling me what to write, he said: “AJ, I promise you’re going to be my pen pal, and we’re going to friends.”

Worldwide Cultural Swap from Hawaii! (Group 66)

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So we received our 1st Worldwide Cultural Swap Exchange from Hawaii! Little one was thrilled with everything. He loved the leis and the turtle. 🙂 There were lots of postcards, a luau shirt (folded paper with instructions), fish made from palm leaves, stickers, US flag, macadamia nuts, a passion fruit jelly, calendar, and a newspaper, and lots of information on Hawaii. We have yet to sit down and go over everything, and I want to do so when I can sit with him, and point out on the world map where Hawaii is and go over the contents of our package. Thank you to the Bolger Family in Hawaii who sent us this!

Recibimos nuestro 1er paquete del Intercambio Mundial Cultural desde Hawaii. Mi pequeño estaba súper emocionado con todo lo que recibimos. Le encanto las flores, y la tortuga. 🙂 En el paquete encontramos muchas postales de la región, una camiseta tipo “luau” (en papel doblado con instrucciones), peces hechos de hojas de palma, calcomanías, una bandera de E.U., nueces, jalea de parcha, un calendario y mucha información sobre Hawaii. Aún tenemos que sentarnos a revisar todo, pero lo quiero hacer cuando tenga tiempo de sentarme con el, y señarle en el mapa dónde está Hawaii e ir mirando y leyendo el contenido de nuestro paquete. ¡Gracias a la familia Bolger en Hawaii que nos envió este paquete!

Updated! Our 1st & 2nd Worldwide Cultural Swap

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I first learned about Worldwide Cultural Swap from a post that Multicultural Familia had shared on their Facebook page. Of course, I was immediately hooked, and excited to join. I signed up and was contacted via email if I wanted to participate. Of course, that was a yes! So we were assigned to Group 66 with four other families from Norway, Florida, South Africa, and Hawaii. This is our 1st package representing Puerto Rico.

“Capias” of our wedding to show our Puertorican tradition. 🙂 For those who don’t know, here’s an explanation: (This is a note I added to the package with the capias) In Puerto Rico it is customary that the bride pins “capias” on her guests. The “capia” you see in your package is a wedding souvenir that the bride gives to her guests. This one is from our wedding in 2008. I saved a few, and how great it is to share it with you! The “capia” is made with a thin satin ribbon with the bride’s & groom’s name/wedding date engraved on them (It’s in English, because we married in South Carolina, USA; but I wanted to have some of my culture present in our wedding.) The ribbon is placed on a lace or other material with a decorative piece on top. A pin is included so that the bride can put it on her guests as a corsage or boutonniere. This way the bride is able to see all her guests, and give them a wedding souvenir.

Puerto Rico flag, and poster size colored copies of pictures taken from a Puerto Rico calendar.

A large map of Puerto Rico (with numbers on it, that can be matched to the pictures included – they have the numbers in the back of ea. picture). Smaller map with a legend.

Shells with sand (not pictured, but I added sand afterwards), pictures of Puerto Rico, and a Pineapple drink.

Coqui pin attached to a card.

History facts on Puerto Rico, a word search (for the older kids), Coqui fact sheet with a 2 coquis to color (for the smaller kids), a Coqui pin attached to a card.

We put everything in these folders, and glued a picture of us, with a letter directed to each child/children of the family that will receive our Puerto Rico package. 🙂

Updated as August 5, 2012:

We’re participating in our 2nd Worldwide Cultural Swap, and we’ve added mostly the same as above, except with some extra goodies. Check out at all the goodies that Mami has brought from Puerto Rico! All of this is for my Worldwide Culture Swap exchange! I’m getting ready for my 2nd swap with Oregon, Qatar, England and Ohio. 🙂 I have all my packages ready, though I didn’t include everything you see in the above picture, I did divide and saved some for some future swaps.

• History: A small pamphlet with the history of Puerto Rico and a word search for the older kids.

• Geography:

o Coloring page with information on our beloved “Coquí” this is ideal for the little ones to color with a “Coquí” key chain, and shells from Puerto Rico.

o 4×6 pictures and larger colored copies of Puerto Rico (small explanation will be on the back of the picture).

o A big map of Puerto Rico, and smaller one with the legend.

• Traditions: “Capias” (our wedding souvenir) traditionally used in weddings as a wedding favor or souvenir for guests.

• Music: Puerto Ricans love music, especially playing their “maracas.”

• Food: We decided to send some sweet treats our famous “Pilón” (Tropical lollipop with sesame seed) and our “Dulce de Ajonjolí” (Sesame seed candy).

• Also included in the package: Puerto Rico pencil, a few cards from a deck of cards, with the “Coquí”, postcard and a bag of Puerto Rico

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Music: Puerto Ricans love music, especially playing their “maracas.” “Maracas” is a rattle used as percussion instrument. It’s an instrument consisting traditionally of a hollow gourd filled with small pebbles or beans. “Maracas” are usually shaken in pairs as an accompaniment to Latin American music, very popular in Puerto Rico. We’ve sent you a small maraca in a key chain, and of course some plastic colorful one’s for you to shake and play some music. Little one has a few “maracas” and he loves to shake them and sing songs while playing.

We sent some sweet treats our famous “Pilón” (Tropical lollipop with sesame seed) and our “Dulce de Ajonjolí” (Sesame seed candy, and we’ve also included the recipe).

Welcome! ¡Bienvenidos!

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Welcome to “Discovering the world through my son’s eyes” where I will share with you how we try to teach our son how diverse, and wonderful our world is. Teaching him a love for books, life, and different cultures. Helping him expand his horizons and his view of the world, thus helping us “discover the world through his eyes.”
Saludos y bienvenidos a “Discovering the world through my son’s eyes” (Descubriendo el mundo a través de los ojos de mi hijo) dónde compartiremos con ustedes como intentamos educar a nuestro hijo en cuán diverso, y maravilloso es el mundo. Enseñándole el amor por los libros, la vida y diferentes culturas. Ayudándole a expandir sus horizontes y su visión del mundo, que a la vez nos ayuda “descubrir el mundo a través de sus ojos.”