Mixing Traditions for a Bicultural Christmas

(Free Gift Tag! Go ahead and print this image to attach to gifts for familia y amigos!)

(Free Gift Tag! Go ahead and print this image to attach to gifts for familia y amigos!)

Most of you know that I write for several websites each month. I usually share those links on the Latinaish Facebook Page, but I wanted to link this one up here for those who might not be on Facebook since this particular post is so relevant to my usual content on Latinaish. I also took the opportunity to make a bicultural/bilingual gift tag for your Christmas gifts (see above!) Feel free to print it out and use it!

Now for the post:

Mixing Traditions for a Bicultural Christmas

Fifteen years ago I married Carlos, a Salvadoran immigrant who spoke little English. Because we were young, pregnant, and poor at the time—instead of moving to our own place—I moved Carlos into my parents’ house where I was still living. From the outside it didn’t seem like the most ideal situation, but living with my English-speaking Anglo parents turned out to be a unique opportunity for Carlos to get a crash course in English and American culture.

Of course, living in such a situation made our diverse backgrounds that much more apparent—especially during holidays, and especially during Christmas…[READ MORE HERE]

Fiesta DC 2012

Taking photos at Fiesta DC this past Sunday was a challenge for a number of reasons, but one of those reasons was the sheer number of other people trying to photograph and video tape the event. At times I felt like I was in a group of paparazzi fighting for position – and then when I would finally frame the perfect shot, someone would inevitably ruin it by running across with a video camera or sticking their iPhone in front of me.

Some of the people were amateur or hobbyist photographers like me, some were obviously freelance professionals or working for media – And then there were young males, usually equipped with cellphone cameras, who were just trying to photograph the nalgas of the cachiporras to share on their Facebook.

Anyway, here are my favorite shots which I had some fun editing and a video of the general atmosphere.

By the way, speaking of nalgas, at one point during the parade a woman with a very generous backside stood in front of us. Carlos, to his credit, didn’t even seem to notice despite the fact that her “pants” were actually leggings and you could see her thong through the fabric.

“¡Qué bárbara!” a little old man said. The old man, not content to enjoy the view by himself and feeling the need to share, elbowed Carlos. Jutting his chin towards the woman in front of them he said, with a lascivious expression on his face, “Ella es Santa Bárbara, ¿vá?”

Carlos looked confused, “Oh, ¿sí?” he replied.
“Ssssíííííí,” the viejo hissed appraising the woman’s behind, practically licking his lips. Noting the fact that Carlos didn’t understand what he meant, the viejo then asked, “¿No sabes?”

“¿No?” Carlos said, the question on his face.

I rolled my eyes at the predictable dirty old man.

“¡Es santa por delante y bárbara por atrás!” the viejo said, erupting in laughter as if he had said the most clever and original thing in the world.

Carlos laughed politely and I pinched him.

“What?” Carlos said.
“Stand back here, away from the viejo chuco,” I said.

After the parade we had lunch. I wanted pupusas but Carlos made a good point that we eat pupusas all the time and that we should eat something different, so we ended up buying delicious Mexican tortas. (The boys and I had the torta milanesa de pollo with horchata. Carlos had the torta de carnitas with agua fresca de tamarindo.)

Just as we finished eating and were deciding what to do next, I heard “Los Hermanos Lovo” announced on a nearby stage.

“No way!” I said out loud, “Hermanos Lovo!”

Carlos looked at me like I had lost my mind as I pulled his hand in the direction of the stage.

“It’s the Chanchona music I blogged about. Remember?… Hermanos Lovo!”

For three songs I tapped my hand against my side, tapped my feet, and moved my hips, waiting for people to dance, but only a few people were dancing, and they were getting stared at. Everyone else just pretty much stood there and watched the performance. I found this a little strange given that at most Latino dominant events I’ve been too, there’s usually not a lack of dancing. I wonder if most of the people there have become too Americanized in this respect? Too self-conscious?

I couldn’t take it anymore. I leaned toward Carlos and he leaned toward me so he could hear me.

“Want to dance?” I asked, eyes brimming with hope like a child asking for a puppy.

Carlos said nothing, just turned toward me and took me in his arms, and we danced.

Within seconds much of the crowd had turned to look at us and stood gaping. Carlos whispered in my ear, “We’re being photographed and video taped.” I felt a flood of gringa self-consciousness wash through me but we kept dancing, and soon, the people around us, were just a blur of colors.

Marriage, I Love Lucy-style

Lucy Ricky argue I Love Lucy

Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz argue as Lucy and Ricky on the show I Love Lucy

It seems cliché that I, a gringa married to a Latino, should identify so much with I Love Lucy, but some scenes feel like watching home movies of our marriage that I didn’t know anyone was taking.

One episode in particular gets to me every time it’s on. This same scene, which I’ve seen dozens of times, makes me laugh at the familiarity, but it has also made me cry on occasions.

The episode is called “The Matchmaker“, (not to be confused with “Lucy is a Matchmaker” which is another episode.) In “The Matchmaker” episode, Lucy invites an unmarried couple over for dinner with plans to show them what a happy marriage looks like. Unfortunately, the baby cries, dinner burns, and when Ricky finds out what Lucy is up to, he sabotages the effort by pointing out and exaggerating all the negative aspects of marriage – As a result, Lucy and Ricky have a big argument right in front of their guests.

Ricky Ricardo, I Love Lucy

The next morning Ricky waits at the kitchen table for his breakfast, but Lucy hasn’t forgiven him for ruining everything the night before. Another argument unfolds where some pretty harsh words are spoken.

Lucy, I Love Lucy

Lucy: Well for once I decided not to do what you told me!

Ricky: For once?! You never do what I told you!

Lucy: Then why don’t you quit tolding me?!

Ricky: Ay qué barbaridad, por qué tiene la cabeza mas dura de ninguna mujer que yo conocido en toda la vida entera!?

Lucy: Sticks and stones may break my bones, but Spanish names won’t hurt me!

Ricky: Sometimes I wish I never left Cuba!

Lucy: That makes two of us!

Ricky and Lucy fight on I Love Lucy

It’s just a TV show, and yet it’s not. Lucy and Desi’s off-screen marital problems are no secret. They were passionately in love but they couldn’t always get along. I guess it scares me sometimes because Carlos and I are the same way. Even after fourteen years of marriage, our relationship still resembles an episode of I Love Lucy more often than not. Each episode is full of humor, plans gone wrong, misunderstandings, arguments, hurt feelings, and ultimately, the realization that despite it all, they not only love each other – they can’t live without each other.

In this particular episode, after that argument in the kitchen, Ricky goes out, saying he’ll never return. When night falls and he still isn’t home, Lucy begins to wonder if it’s true. At Fred and Ethel’s apartment she seeks comfort and Fred assures Lucy that Ricky is just doing what any man would do – he’s just staying out late enough to give her a good scare.

Lucy crying, I Love Lucy

Lucy decides she’ll give Ricky a scare of his own by not being in their apartment when he returns and sends Fred up there to watch the baby so she can stay downstairs with Ethel. Fred goes upstairs, crawls into Lucy’s bed and falls asleep but soon Ricky has come home with a box of chocolates and flowers.

Ricky brings home candy and flowers, I Love Lucy

Sitting on the edge of his bed, Ricky apologizes to who he thinks is Lucy, but, as we know, is really Fred beneath the blankets.

Ricky apologizes, I Love Lucy

“Lucy, Lucy…” he says sweetly, “I’m home. Sweetheart, I guess I owe you an apology. I shouldn’t have said all those awful things that I said. I was in a bad humor and I just blew my top, that’s all. But darling, you know I love being married to you, honey. You are the dearest, sweetest, most wonderful person in the world. You know, I wasn’t going to come home tonight just to teach you a lesson… And then I got to walking around and I, I started thinking about all the wonderful times that we’ve had together and how much we meant to each other and well… I brought you some flowers and some candy. Honey, I won’t blame you if you never spoke to me again, but sweetheart, please say you forgive me, darling?”

At this point, Fred pops out from beneath the blankets, and Lucy and Ethel appear, laughing, having overheard the whole thing. Embarrassed and angry, Ricky puts his hat and coat back on, ready to leave once again. Lucy blocks the door and begs him to stay.

Lucy begs Ricky to stay, I Love Lucy

Just at that moment, the doorbell rings – it’s a telegram from the unmarried couple they had invited for dinner at the beginning of the episode. Lucy reads the telegram aloud:

“We figured if you two characters could put up with each other for thirteen years there must be something to this marriage business so we’re giving it a try.”

Everyone laughs, Ricky and Lucy kiss, and they all live happily ever after… until the next episode.

I Love Lucy heart - blank

Note: All images are screen captures of video still frames. The rights to I Love Lucy are owned by CBS.

Spanish Conversation Hearts – Free Images!

Did your novio forget your flowers? (Or in my case, did you wake up too late to sneak a note into your macho’s lunch box?) … No te preocupes! Here is a Valentine’s Day gift from Latinaish.com that all of you procrastinators are free to re-gift. Put them on your valentine’s Facebook wall, E-mail them to friends, Pin them to Pinterest, or print them to hang up on the door for when the kids get home from school. The posibilidades are endless. Feliz Día de San Valentín!

Update: Here’s an extra one added by request.

Thanks to Kate Pullen for making the blank conversation heart clipart available for use.

Bilingual signs, accordions, botas picudas y más

I know that some people are totally against signs being put into any language other than English in the United States, but I think that most bilinguals would agree with me that it’s pretty awesome. It’s a learning opportunity, gente! Take advantage of it! Free mini-Spanish lessons in every aisle of K-Mart.

While I walked around admiring the new bilingual signs at our K-Mart, (which I love), I did catch a typo, though.

On some of the signs where they attempted to use the word “cuidado” (care), like this one for fabric care products – they had accidentally switched the “u” and “i” …Oops. I thought about letting management know but didn’t want to seem obnoxious, plus, what if it’s a nationwide typo? … I’ll send them an E-mail.

Other chévere things I spotted while out and about…

This accordion was at Goodwill – I wanted it, but I don’t have $200 and I don’t know how to play it, so that would be kind of pointless, unless I have a third kid, which I’m not going to do. (My oldest son plays trumpet and my younger son is learning to play violin. Carlos has a guitar he’s supposed to be learning to play… I’m trying to create my own personal mariachi group, but without a third child, I won’t be able to start a group to play me norteñas. Rayos.)

Anyway, a few weeks ago we went to eat lunch at a little local Mexican place which is kind of new. It’s not fancy and is privately owned. Its got the expected stereotypical Mexican decorations on the walls but the food is more authentic, there’s a TV that plays telenovelas that the women watch while they cook and the little kids of the employees run around freely in the dining room. It’s kind of nice and makes you feel like you’re eating at a friend’s house.

So while we were sitting there waiting for our food, some of the kids run by and go into the office to play. (They left the “office” door open and there’s actually a bed and a bunch of toys in there.) … While I was looking in that direction, I noticed the coat stand in the corner there. On top was one of the novelty sombreros, and hanging below that was one of the kids’ backpacks, (Washington Redskins themed.) … The symbolism, irony and clash of cultures existing there on that coat stand made me think.

This last photo is from just the other day. We were grocery shopping and while we were in the produce section, this group of Mexican guys walks past. Carlos was watching me so I looked down respectfully and didn’t flirt.

“Look!” Carlos whispered to me. Permission to look? Órale!
I looked up but was confused as to why Carlos wanted me to.
“The boots,” Carlos clarified, pointing with his chin.
“Oh! Botas picudas!”
“Okay, calm down,” Carlos said.

Apparently I had become too excited for his liking, I couldn’t take my eyes off the boots though.

“I wish I could take a photo,” I said wistfully.
Carlos examined an apple and ignored me.

I gauged Carlos’s mood carefully and decided to take a chance.
“Would it be weird if you asked one of them if I could take a photo of his boots?”

Carlos hesitated for a few seconds but before I knew it, he was leading me over to one of the guys who was putting tomatoes into a bag.

“Excuse me,” Carlos said in Spanish. “My wife likes your boots. Do you mind me asking where you got them?”

The guy seemed a little weirded out and kept looking at us funny. He looked over his shoulder, either looking for a hidden camera (or something worse), or perhaps trying to get his compañeros attention so they could come rescue him from the cuckoo Salvadoran guy and his gringa.

He told us where he bought them and that they cost him $300.

“They’re really nice,” Carlos lied, (because he hates botas picudas. He was only doing this for me.) “Do you think my wife could take a photo of your boots?”

The guy waited a second to see if Carlos was joking and then laughing nervously, nodded his head yes.

“Gracias! Son padrisimas!” I squealed with all the enthusiasm one might give to a movie star upon getting their autograph.

“Calm down,” Carlos reminded me.

“Okay,” I said, kissing him on the cheek. “Thanks, nene.”

I always say that he’s lucky to have me because I put up with his hot temper and celos … but I’m lucky to have someone who puts up with my locuras, too.

10 años

[Scroll down for English Translation]

Los vemos antes de que nos vean. Él es Latino, ella es una gringa – los dos son jóvenes, sin hijos, como nosotros hace más de diez años atrás. Parece que ellos están en un pleito, (de qué, ¿quién sabe?)- peleando sobre algo que no van a recordar en diez años, o aún mañana. El inglés chapurreado de él, y la voz bajita de ella, es como una de mis propias memorias. Ahora, nos ven, otra pareja igual que ellos, pero sonriendo, felices, tomados de la mano, con dos hijos creciendo a nuestro lado. Tal vez vean que una relación como la nuestra, puede funcionar, que todo va a estar bien. Que a pesar de los retos encontrados en un matrimonio como el nuestro, pueden vivir felices para siempre. Ellos caminan en la otra dirección.

Él toma la mano de ella.

_______________________

English Translation:

10 Years

We see them before they see us. He’s Latino, she’s a gringa – both young, no children, like us over ten years ago. They seem to be arguing, over who knows what – something they won’t remember ten years from now, or even tomorrow. His broken English and her hushed tones sound like a memory. They see us then, another Latino and gringa couple, smiling, happy, holding hands, with two half-grown children by our side. Maybe they see that it can work, that it will be okay. That despite the challenges encountered in a marriage like ours, you can live happily ever after. They walk off in the other direction.

He takes her hand.
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Courtship, Latin American style

Reading a book called “The Hacienda: My Venezuelan Years,” and though I don’t think it’s intended to be a comedic book at all, this part made me laugh, perhaps because it’s vaguely familiar.

“He said he would die if I didn’t marry him. He said it was my destiny. I was sixteen and I didn’t know then that it was an old cliché, as though, somewhere, there is a little latino lexicon of courtship which is learnt by heart in adolescence and then regurgitated to girl after girl.”

- Lisa St. Aubin de Teran

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What have you been reading? Which literary quote made you stop to think or laugh lately?