Monday, January 13, 2014

Bicultural Lovin'

As might be obvious from my user name, my man and I hail from different cultures. Though, perhaps, not in the ways you might think.
My family is Mexican- two grandparents born in Mexico, two whose families have been in California since it WAS Mexico. My parents were early members of MEChA and the Brown Berets. I've always labeled myself "Chicana" rather than "Hispanic" or "Mexican-American" or even "Latina" because my parents decided that was important. We observed the grape boycott so long I forgot what grapes tasted like and they still always feels like a guilty pleasure. Every Saturday when I was young I went to a Spanish Immersion school my mom & her educator friends founded. While other girls went to ballet or gymnastics, I was in folklorico classes. I was never in a Christmas pageant, but I know all the words to Las Posadas.
Meanwhile, my man's parents came over from the Philippines as adults. He's the first Filipino I've ever dated, but the parish I grew up in is about 1/3 Filipino and I was in choir with mostly Filipinos throughout my teens and twenties. So, you know, I figured I was ready. I knew all my prayers in Tagalog. I know the difference between Tita and Ate. I've made pancit once or twice. I've been to many a Santo Nino celebration. But it turns out, I'm marrying the least Filipino Filipino ever.
After immigrating, my man's parents were pretty serious about assimilating. Although his mom speaks Tagalog with her siblings, her kids don't even know common phrases because she made a point never to speak it in the home. And other than calling her Lola ("grandma") and once in a GREAT while someone referring to their aunt as "Ate" (but, honestly, they might be saying "Auntie"), they don't use familial names at all. When I met his mom for the first time I did the bow-put-her-hand-on-my-forehead thing and she laughed and said I was more Filipino than he is.
It turns out, my 2nd generation parents being super gung-ho about their culture of origin and his 1st generation parents wanting to disappear into American culture is the bigger "bicultural challenge" than the fact that our countries of origin are different.
It's not surprising, then, that I'm the one trying to infuse our wedding with some Filipino-ness. I'm the one who looked up the traditions that he'd never heard of. I'm the one pushing for us to have married couples we admire serve as "ninongs & ninangs". I'm planning to knit our shawl to be placed over his shoulders and my head during the ceremony. The bonus, though, is that suddenly our engagement has brought out the more traditional side of his mom. She seems happy to let us do our own thing, but was also pretty smiley when I said I did was ninongs. I'm looking forward to sitting down with her to discuss these sorts of things and figure out what we can incorporate.
My dad, meanwhile, is super excited about about the possibility of some Mexican-Filipino fusion food. Carne Asada Pancit anyone? Sising Tacos? Yum.

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