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]

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.

Pavo vs. Pavo Real

Image source: sweetclipart.com

Carlos: Guess what?

Me: What?

Carlos: At work the other day, my boss said I was the best guy in my department.

Me: Oh yeah?

Carlos: {smiling and nodding}

Me: That’s awesome, nene. I bet you felt pretty proud.

Carlos: Yeah, my chest felt like a turkey.

___________________________

I think he meant some version of “proud as a peacock.”

(Peacock = pavo real, turkey = pavo) … Similar words in Spanish, but not so much in English. Regardless, I knew what he wanted to say.

After 14 years together, I’m starting to believe that at some point we will eventually have a language that will be uniquely understood only between the two of us – It will be a mix of mispronounced Spanish words, inside jokes, broken English and inadvisable direct translations of idioms from one language to the other.

Ricky: You shouldn’t cross your bridges before they’re hatched.

Lucy: What?

Ricky: You shouldn’t burn your chickens behind you!

- I Love Lucy

Feminine Strength vs. Machismo

Image source: Ray Larabie

In high school we would have one week of gym class that we spent in the weight lifting room. It was in a dark, windowless room down a forgotten hallway. Students were allowed access to it after school but it was often forgotten, except by the jocks. The girls stood in a corner talking, watching the boys, examining their nails and refusing to do anything other than a minute on the rowing machine – preferring to take a zero for the day. I, however, loved our week in the weight lifting room.

Already known for challenging boys to arm wrestling contests at lunch time, (and sometimes winning), my reputation was further sealed by my behavior in the weight lifting room. The boys gathered around to see how much I could bench press, taking bets that I wouldn’t be able to do it each time the peg was moved lower and the weight got heavier. I fed on their pessimism. I loved being underestimated. I took a deep breath, felt the muscles ripping but pushed, pushed, pushed, my lips closed tight, my nostrils flaring. I heard them say knowingly to each other, “She can’t lift it” – as I struggled. My arms shook and I pushed harder still until I would feel the weight give way and my arms straightened above me in victory.

I didn’t care that I wasn’t the kind of girl you ask to the prom, but instead the kind of girl you ask to help push the car when it breaks down. I come from a family of strong women. My mother is well-known for re-decorating while my father is at work – sometimes moving heavy furniture up and down two flights of stairs by herself.

I associated femininity with weakness and wanted no part of it, but I realized how simplistic this point of view was when I gave birth to my first child. Giving birth is an act that is simultaneously the height of femininity and strength. Now, as the mother of two boys, the lone female in a household full of males, I value my feminine side more than I did growing up. Being married to Carlos though, has made me examine my femininity from a cultural perspective. It hasn’t been easy to sort out.

I will try to open a jar of pickles. Carlos will offer to help, reach his hand out for the jar, and I’ll turn away with the jar, stubbornly determined to do it myself. This is when Carlos will tell me I’m like my mother or say, “Why do you have to be so American?!” … to which I’d reply, “Why is it an insult to your manhood for me to open the pickles myself?!”

Over the years, I’ve learned to (usually), hand over the jar of pickles. It makes Carlos feel good to do it for me. I never pretend I can’t do anything, but if it’s difficult, why not give him the satisfaction of feeling that he takes care of me?

I thought that over the years, Carlos and I had mostly ironed out this one cultural wrinkle. We both have made compromises. I let him open jars of pickles that are difficult for me to open, (damn you, carpal tunnel) – and he doesn’t expect me to act completely helpless – fair enough… but at the grocery store while I was unloading the cart at the cash register, I retrieved the case of bottled water from the bottom of the cart and hefted it up and onto the conveyor belt. I thought nothing of it but Carlos whispered through clenched teeth, “Hey, you should have asked me to do it. You’re embarrassing me.”

Embarrassing Carlos was not my intention or even something I had considered – I just wanted to get the groceries checked out so we could go home, (and for the record, the cashier seemed completely unaware of the battle going on right in front of her.) I guess the lesson here is that Carlos and I will always have cultural issues to work on – nothing is ever resolved so completely that it won’t pop up again, so ingrained are the traits we bring from our two different backgrounds.


What is your take and your experiences on the topic of feminine strength vs. machismo?

Do you want to rent a movie?

Image source: Eddie Does Japan

More arguments at Casa López start with this seemingly innocent question than I would like to admit. Here is a transcript of what happened this past weekend when Carlos uttered those 7 little words.

Carlos: Do you want to rent a movie?
Tracy: Yeah, sure.

{We both sit down in front of the computer to see what’s new in RedBox.}

Tracy: How about Saving Private Perez?
Carlos: That looks stupid.
Tracy: It’s supposed to be stupid, that’s why it’s funny.
Carlos: No, pick something else.
Tracy: How about this?
Carlos: What’s that?
Tracy: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan.
Carlos: What’s it about?
Tracy: Let’s watch the trailer.
Carlos: No! Just read the description, just tell me.
Tracy: Why would I just read the description when there’s a trailer right here and you can see with your own eyes? {clicks play}
Carlos: {sighs}

{trailer ends}

Carlos: I still don’t get it. What’s it about?
Tracy: It’s about women in China who have a special friendship. The cinematography is so beautiful, don’t you think?
Carlos: Um, yeah, but it looks depressing. Can we get something with a little more action?
Tracy: Fine… How about this?
Carlos: Which one?
Tracy: A Better Life.
Carlos: What’s it about?
Tracy: A father and son who immigrate to the United States and the difficulties they face. There’s probably a little action in it, I’d imagine.
Carlos: I lived that, I don’t need to watch it.
Tracy: Carlos, come on. This looks like a good father, son story. Look. {clicks play}

Tracy: {starts crying}
Carlos: You’re crying! I’m not renting this! You’re crying already! This is just the trailer! This movie is depressing!
Tracy: Why are you yelling at me?!
Carlos: Because you’re crying and you don’t want to rent anything good!
Tracy: Fine, you pick but I don’t want to watch anything with aliens or explosions or war, or the end of the world, or exploding aliens ending the world, or—
Carlos: How about Fast Five?
Tracy: Or car racing! You’ve seen that three times already!
Carlos: Well I like that one!
Tracy: Come on! Pick something we haven’t seen!
Carlos: Xmen.
Tracy: Ew, no.
Carlos: Captain America?
Tracy: Dude, we saw that when we were in El Salvador.
Carlos: But we saw it in Spanish.
Tracy: It’s the same movie! … What’s with you and super heroes anyway? No super hero movies either.
Carlos: You’re being so picky!
Tracy: You’re the one whose being picky! There are a bunch of movies I’d love to watch and you won’t watch them. It’s not like I’m asking to watch Jane Eyre or some other girly movie. The worst part is I told Redbox they should have more documentaries and foreign films and now you never want to watch them with me so they’ll probably stop stocking them.
Carlos: {laughing} They put them in there just for you?
Tracy: I told them to! I tweeted them!
Carlos: {sighs}
Tracy: So what are we renting? Are we renting anything? … We’re going to end up renting something like Dolphin Tale.
Carlos: I’d watch that.
Tracy: Seriously, Carlos?… The dolphin needs a tail so Morgan Freeman and a little boy help the dolphin get a tail, the end. I’m not watching that.
Carlos: So, are we not renting anything?
Tracy: I guess not… maybe they’ll have something we can agree on next week.

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.
___

Did you participate in Spanish Friday? Leave your link in comments!
Participaste en Spanish Friday? Deja tu link en comentarios!

Miami Randomness

Carlos arrived in Miami a few hours after I did. When I kissed him hello he asked if I’d been drinking. “Just one Cuba Libre with Carrie,” I said. He sat down. He stared out the window. “You’ve only been here a few hours and already you’re drinking? … That’s not good,” he said.

We weren’t off to a very good start. I took his photo while telling him, “Cheer up! We’re in Miami, trick!” … That didn’t help. I promised no more drinking unless he was with me. He stopped pouting and we went for a walk.

The first order of business was to buy the boys a post card. I wanted to send it right away so it would arrive home before we did – We found a CVS and I bought one. (I later wrote the message, addressed it, put postage on it, and sent it… To this day, it has not arrived.) … While Carlos paid for the post card, I wandered outside. This dog was tied to the bike rack. I thought he was cute.

Both of us were starving so we continued to walk, in search of lunch. Carlos was looking for familiar fast food. I was looking for something new and exciting. This is a metaphor for our relationship in general. Carlos wants the comfort of the predictable. He wants things to stay the same – he wants to know what to expect. I, on the other hand, want to explore and discover. I want to try anything and everything. I think that frightens Carlos sometimes.

Eventually, Carlos relented and let me have my way, again, pretty typical for us… I think I’m just more willing to “argue to the death” as he says, and he gives up.

I was on a mission to find Cuban food. Every time someone who seemed “local” would walk by, I’d nudge Carlos and say, “Ask them!” and he’d say, “No, you ask!” … This happened a few times. When I finally got up the nerve to ask an elderly Cuban guy hobbling by with a cane, (I assume Cuban only because he was wearing a straw fedora, but I could be wrong), I realized we were standing in front of a place called “Bernie’s L.A. Café.” I saw some Cuban food on the menu in the window so we went in. The bilingual waitress was super nice, the prices were decent and the meal was simply amazing – very fresh, high quality food.

We both got the Cuban sandwich, (and tostones just because.) They served these really tasty pieces of toasted bread with a basket of different hot sauces. Mango habanero, (judging from the amount left in the bottles), is the most popular, and it was certainly my favorite.

The tostones came with “mojito dipping sauce” … I don’t know what it was made of but I need to find out. It was one of the most delicious things I’ve ever had. The sandwich portion was so big that we both only ate half and brought the leftovers to our room for a second meal later.

By the way, another must visit place – InStyle Cupcakes. Last time I went to Miami, Carrie introduced me to them. I like cupcakes to begin with, but with varieties like Dulce de Leche and Churro, I became a little obsessed. Since I knew we’d be back in Miami, I took to Twitter stalking them. If we’d have been given more free time, I was more than willing to invest the money in taking a taxi to visit them, but thankfully InStyle delivered a box to Carrie’s room.

Surprisingly, though I’m not crazy about fruit-flavored things most of the time, guava is my favorite. Next time I’m in Miami and don’t have such a full schedule, hopefully they’ll agree to a taste-testing tour of their actual location… for journalistic purposes of course.

Anyway, after lunch we stopped at Whole Foods which was like a block from our hotel, to buy bottled water and some snacks, etc. for our hotel room. We don’t usually shop Whole Foods cause we’re too poor, but it was a good experience. (And their sushi is awesome.)

After dropping our things off at the hotel, we went back out to make the most of our day. We met with Dean of Surropa.com, who I’ve been in touch with via E-mail, Facebook and Twitter for over a year now, but had never met in person. We had a nice chat and he gave us a lot of tips about where we should go for fun before dropping us off on Lincoln Road.

I could have walked around hand-in-hand with Carlos all night, but I had a busy two days ahead. During those busy two days, Carlos began to feel some discontent growing inside him. At first he couldn’t sort out just what he was feeling and why. I became frustrated with his negative attitude, chalked it up to simple macho jealousy issues – so we argued, (apologies to whoever slept in the room next to 307 that night.) …Once we calmed down, we talked and talked until we unraveled the problem.

It turns out, Carlos is feeling “stuck.” He see’s me following my passions and he’s proud of me, but he doesn’t feel like he’s growing or achieving anything himself – and he doesn’t know what to do about it.

I told him he needs to mix it up, try new things, and see what happens. He was resistant at first, but then he made the brave decision, against his natural tendencies, to see what possibilities are out there. I’m happy for him because I know what he’s capable of despite what he was told growing up – despite what he came to believe about himself, and despite the challenges of living in this country as an immigrant. He’s the only one whose been holding himself back.

All these years he’s supported me while I follow my passions – now I will be there for him.

Disclosure: I went to Miami at the invitation of Telemundo. I have not been paid by any companies or restaurants mentioned. All opinions are my own.

Special Thanks to Corrientes for the use of their song “Tiempo y Espacio” which was perfect for my video. (Check them out: Jamendo.com.)