Saturday, May 10, 2014

Latinas in the City: Bi-Cultural Family

Hello all! I am so excited to share with you all the fourth installment of our Latinas in the City Collaboration.

Check out our first talk about S E X here
Check out our second talk about Mommy and Small Businesses here.
Check out our third talk about balancing Relationships here.

Today I will share a little bit more about our bi-cultural family, and how we share our dual identities as an expanding familia. Growing up I didn't ask, nor was I asked questions regarding my cultural identity until we moved to Puerto Rico at a young age. I was born in the states and I grew up speaking English and Spanish. Naturally, my parents thought that the transition for us to move there would be easy. However, it proved to be so difficult for every one of us. We were not only moving to a different country, but even the way we spoke Spanish was different. I quickly realized that I wasn't "Puerto Rican enough" for the Puerto Ricans on the island! I spoke the language, but there seemed to be something off and my classmates noticed it right away. They immediately knew that I was from "alla fuera" or "out there" another way to say from the U.S. I realized then that, I am Puerto Rican, but I am also very much American. That was a part of my cultural identity. However, it has taken years for this process of understanding and acceptance to take place. 

My husband on the other hand, is a home-grown Wisconsin man! He was born and raised in Wisconsin, and he can trace back his ancestors (great and grandparents) to the area as well. He has heritage in both Germany, Poland and Belgium. His parents also continue to share and speak about traditions and foods of those areas. At a young age, my husband Benjamin began to explore more of the world and started learning Spanish, then lived and traveled to several Latin American countries where he learned more about the Latino culture and its people. 

Now fast forward to a few years ago... This Latina was late to a research meeting where I would discuss more about my research in, "English to Spanish Translation of Emergency Room Discharge Instructions," and about presenting at the Wisconsin Capitol in Madison. There I would meet a very cheery and smart young man that would also be presenting at the Capitol about his Scientific plant research. It literally took one date (that I invited him to!) and a very long talk (until the coffee shop closed) to realize that we had much more than just Spanish in common. 

It's no surprise that we married shortly after, and we started a family a year after marriage. Now we knew that we wanted to make sure that we nurtured and embraced both of our heritage, culture and familial values with our children. They would not be 50% Latino and 25%Polish 25% German 25% Belgian I think that makes more than 100! Our children would be 100% all of these! Gabriel is as much Puerto Rican as he is American. My traditions are as important as my husbands traditions. Both English and Spanish play a vital role in our raising him embracing his unique identity.

We want our children to understand why is it that Mami's side of the family asks for "Bendici├│n" or "Blessings" from our elders. Why grandma and grampa buy us specially-made Belgium pies when they visit. But most importantly, that all of these beautiful histories and traditions are a part of their story.

We all have traditional holiday's, foods, stories and people that make up our heritage. And each and every one of these are important in understanding why we do what we do, in the way we do it! Understanding, these unique threads of families is what makes us who we are. We hope to continue sharing both our Puerto Rican Holiday's and our Polish traditions. 

I asked the other ladies how do they nurture their cultures in their familes and here are their answers! 

Gladys "The Motheroverload":

I love that my parents taught us about our culture and heritage throughout our childhood and continue to do so to this very day. I will forever be grateful to them for our yearly family trips to Mexico in which we visited family, friends and the small town in which they grew up in. 

To be honest, there are so many traditions I would love to share with you all but I'll keep it short and sweet. These are my top 10 I plan to teach my children: Posadas, the extravagant ginormous nativity my mom puts together every November-January (it literally takes up her whole living room-just like they do in Jalostotitl├ín), celebrating El Carnaval and el Quince de Agosto de Jalos, visiting a pumpkin patch before Halloween, opening Christmas gifts on Christmas Eve (midnight), decorating our Christmas tree, making an altar for Dia De Los Muertos, Trick-Or-Treating, Super Bowl BBQ's, Thanksgiving prayer & Family Dinner and having mariachi at our family milestone gatherings. 

Gisella "Serendepity Delight": 

By teaching them the importance of family in our culture. Having respect for our elders and showing everything by example. We hold many traditions in our home and we try to instill as much as possible to our munchkins.

Cosette "I, Loving Victoria"

We choose to nurture and share our culture with Victoria in three aspects:
1. We observe holidays from our cultures and we do it big. 4th of July is as important as September 15. It is important for us that she has memories of us celebrating both holidays so she can relate it as part of her culture and upbringing. 

2. We speak to her in different languages. Aside from speaking Spanish and English on the daily, we also speak to her in Italian as much as we can. We have Italian roots on my mom’s side of the family and we all grew up understanding Italian. Therefore, just like we say ADIOS and good bye, we say ciao! We want her to be a well-rounded individual and as part of that, we choose to expose her to as many languages possible. 

3. Victoria is still very young to understand what heritage is but there will be a time when she will understand and it is very important for me and my husband that she develops pride. How do we go about that? We believe traveling and actually visiting the place where her parents and grandparents were born is important. For example, one day, we want to take her to Washington DC, so she can also learn, see, feel, smell the country her dad has served with pride. 

Love that insight ladies!

My hope for you is that you embrace your story and history! There is so much richness in learning more about your heritage. 




  1. beautiful! He's lucky to get all the great parts of so many different cultures!

  2. I have a mashed up heritage too (italian, polish, irish, german, austrian, english, welsh) and love learning about ALL of them. Gabriel and new baby are lucky to have parents who value and embrace their shared cultures.
    Oh and that family photo? Adorbs.