Category Archives: marriage

Te Encontraré – PART IV

(To read PART I, go HERE.)
(To read PART II, go HERE.)
(To read PART III, go HERE. )

This story is about to get even more telenovela-ish. Are you ready? Ándale pues…

Te Encontraré – PART IV
~Wedding Plans~

Things were going well between us. I didn’t know what the future held, but we were happy together. Then one day we learned that immigration law would soon change, making it more difficult for an undocumented immigrant to adjust their legal status – even if they married a U.S. Citizen.

Laying on the bed talking, we decided we needed to get married before the law went into effect to ensure we could stay together. It wasn’t a romantic moment. There was no surprise, no shaking hands to slide a ring onto…no ring.

Carlos reached into a drawer in the bedside table and pulled out a little box. He had shown me this box before, and I knew that it held a gold necklace which had belonged to his deceased father – Carlos did not even wear it himself for fear of losing it – it was that precious to him.

“No tengo un anillo, pero…”

He held out the open box with the necklace in it. I shook my head and told him it was okay, that I couldn’t take it, but he kept insisting. Finally, I took the box with the necklace and thanked him, but then promptly put it back into the drawer when he wasn’t paying attention. I didn’t want to lose it, and I reasoned, if we were getting married, the necklace would soon be in a drawer next to a bed we both slept in anyway.

Laying back down, we sighed and stared up at the ceiling. There was a problem. Though my parents knew I had a boyfriend named Carlos, (who they thought I was spending way too much time with), they hadn’t met him, and I certainly hadn’t told them that he was undocumented. I doubted they would give their blessing – Not because they aren’t compassionate people but because they are reasonable people. Even Carlos and I knew we were doing something crazy.

We needed to make wedding plans – and these wouldn’t be the plans that other brides get to make. We wouldn’t discuss dresses, flowers, or cakes – instead we tried to think of how we could convince my parents that our getting married was a good idea.

And so, if we hadn’t already been foolish, immature, reckless and impulsive enough, we came up with a plan. We decided an “accidental” pregnancy was needed to ensure things went our way.

Hold on,
Hold on to yourself,
for this is gonna hurt like hell.
Hold on,
Hold on to yourself,
you know that only time will tell.

-Sarah McLachlan / Hold On

___

Go Read: PART V

Te Encontraré – PART I

Some have asked me to tell more about how Carlos and I ended up together. It is an incredible story or a boring one, depending how I remember it, and how I choose to tell it on any particular day. I don’t mean to take liberty with the truth, but in the tradition of Latin American storytelling, (which perhaps has influenced me over the years), it’s understood that family histories evolve and change over time – eventually no one quite remembers what is truth and what is fiction.

In that spirit, I will tell you about how I met Mr. López.


“Mexicans are always making things up…Don’t ever believe these family legends people have. It’s like how white people like to say their great-grandmother was a Cherokee princess, but worse…Everyone’s family is like that. Everyone’s grandmother drank with Diego and Frida…and everyone’s grandfather rode with Pancho Villa. Everyone’s abuelo can’t have ridden with Pancho Villa, mijos. The Mexican army would have seen them coming ten miles away!”

-”Everyone’s Abuelo Can’t Have Ridden With Pancho Villa” by Andrea Saenz

Te Encontraré – PART I
~Yes, I kiss on the first date~

The summer fresh out of high school with absolutely no direction in life – That’s me, working at a music store while my friends go off to university. My parents encouraged me to go but never pushed. Maybe they were partly relieved not to take on the financial burden of student loans, and besides, things could have been worse. My mother always said she worried I’d end up in a Turkish prison. I think she just meant I had a way of getting myself into trouble.

Living in his brother’s apartment – one block away from the music store – That’s Carlos. He’s been in the United States for a year. He’s recently been given an actual bed to sleep in – before that, he slept on the floor. He makes a living cleaning windows, but some days there isn’t any work, and on those days he goes walking around the city.

One day, by chance or fate, he walked into the store where I worked. I watched him browse the Latin Music section before asking “Necesitas ayuda?” – Those are the first words I ever said to him, “Do you need help?”

Now, I’m not sure I believe in love at first sight. My husband says he knew right away that we were meant to be. I do admit, I felt something strange, like I was looking into the eyes of someone I’d known before.

He asked me in English, “How many years do you have?” which made me laugh. I asked where he was from – he said El Salvador, and I pretended to know where in the world that was, though I didn’t. It seems like in school we memorized the capitals of all the countries in South America, we studied Mexico from every imaginable angle, but Central America? … If you asked me where Central America was, I probably would have guessed Kansas.

Between blushes and glances at our shoes, he eventually asked for my phone number and left with it in his pocket.

The first time he called me was that same night. My little sister answered the phone and then yelled down the hallway that separated our bedrooms, “Tracy! I think it’s for you! It’s a guy who doesn’t speak English well!”

We arranged to meet the next day to spend the afternoon together. At this point I’d very much like to say that our courtship was chaste and innocent, but see this photo? This was taken in a photo booth that first day together. (My sincere apologies to all the other gringas for tarnishing your reputation. I couldn’t help it. He was cute.)

That night we sat in the grass, looking at the reflection of the moon in the glassy surface of a lake. Between his broken English and my basic Spanish, we somehow communicated, though not perfectly. Maybe that’s why we kissed so much. Besos don’t need translating. At one point he held me close and began to sing quietly into my ear. I didn’t understand the words back then, but now that I do, it makes me wonder if Carlos knew something I didn’t – If that day, he really did feel that he knew we were destined to be together.

“Yo te encontraré,
no habrá sitio en el mundo,
donde te escondan te hallaré.

Yo te encontraré,
porque eres mi destino,
aunque seas la aguja en el pajar
yo te encontraré.”

- Te Encontraré / Ricardo Arjona

___

(…READ PART II…)

Crush

Today I want to talk about “crushes”, and I found myself sitting for a minute, trying to think of my title options in Spanish. I know how to say “in love” and things of that nature, but a crush is not love. After a quick search, I gathered these possibilities:

Estar embobado/a con alguien – To be besotted with someone
Estar colado/a por alguien – To be cast by someone
Encaprichado/a de alguien – To be infatuated with someone
Estar prendado/a de alguien – To be smitten with someone
Tener un flechazo – To have an arrow shot
Estar pillado/a por alguien – To be caught by someone
Tener un metejón – (difficult to give a literal translation, maybe something like “To be really into”)
Estar remetido/a – To be tucked in
Estar perdido/a por alguien – To be lost for someone
Perder la chaveta por alguien – To be haywire for someone
Estar templado/a como las cuerdas de una guitarra – To be tempered as the strings of a guitar

All of these are fabulous in their own way – but none of them, for me, carry the sentido of “crush” – that silly, intoxicating feeling that makes one feel like a 10 year old girl crying into her pillow for New Kids on the Block just because she hearts them SO much. (…um, not that I know anything about that…pero, hands off Jonathan. He’s mine.)

So, why am I, (una mujer casada!), talking about crushes? Well because I have one, and what’s more, my usually macho husband, Carlos, is okay with it. No sé cómo, but for once he isn’t celoso. Maybe he has grown more secure in himself and doesn’t feel threatened by my childish locuras anymore. ¿Quién sabe?

Now I’m sure you’re wondering who my crush is. Well, he is a man with an inspiring story that came from very humble beginnings. He came to the U.S. from Mexico to work farms in California at a young age. He loved to write songs and he loved to sing. Some people told him he wasn’t good enough, but after the death of his mother who always encouraged him, he followed his dreams. You may now know him as “Espinoza Paz”.

To add to my juvenile feelings for him, él tiene frenos iguales a los que yo tenía when I was in middle school, which I find completely adorable.

The best thing about Espinoza is how shy he can be. (For all you timidos out there, some girls like that so just be yourself!)

Now that I think about it, Espinoza Paz reminds me of my husband. The ojos chinos, the mejillas adorables, the humble beginnings as an immigrant, the shyness… Wait until I tell Carlos, I think I have a crush on him, too.

“It’s just a little crush,
Not like I faint every time we touch
It’s just some little thing,
Not like everything I do,
depends on you.”

- Crush / Jennifer Paige

Okay – now you have to spill the beans. Who is your crush?

Sisters, Strangers & Starting Over

Book Review: What happens when a niece you’ve never met before shows up on your doorstep needing to be taken in, and the ensuing turmoil of painful memories of a lost sister and a life disrupted threatens to destroy your marriage?

Sisters, Strangers and Starting Over, is the second book I’ve read by Belinda Acosta. Like her first book, (Damas, Dramas and Ana Ruiz), Acosta’s talent is in drawing out each character’s deepest thoughts to show the motives behind their behavior, so that the reader feels immense empathy. Also, when it comes to writing about marriage, I rarely see myself and my husband in fictional characters but Acosta completely nails it.

The unapologetic Spanglish writing style she uses is a treat for English/Spanish bilinguals and the other thing I absolutely loved about this book was that the couple reflects the changing face of families today in the United States. (The husband in the story is Anglo and the wife is Latina. How many of you who married gringos can relate to having a name like “Beatriz Sanchez-Milligan”?)

Ask Señora López: How do Latinas Keep Their Man?

George over at SofritoForYourSoul.com has posted the second question in my “Ask Señora López” column. The question this time: How do Latinas keep their man? … Come find out and add your 2 cents in the comments!

Ask Señora López: How do Latinas Keep Their Man?

The secret ingredient in my kitchen is love

I love to cook. I love it because it fully engages all my senses and allows me to be creative while doing something practical to care for mi familia. I love the diversity of colors, textures, scents, tastes – the memories it conjures and creates.

My only problem is that I often used to stain my shirts. After I ruined much of my wardrobe, my husband asked Suegra to make me an apron.

Here is something nice I have to say about mi Suegra – she is a very talented seamstress, (and she’s completely self-taught!) She can make anything imaginable, from the sweetest little dresses for baby girls to silly Halloween costumes for mis niños – and when she’s not living with us, I realize what a useful skill it is as I haphazardly repair sofa pillows myself with crooked, child-ish stitches.

My favorite thing she ever made for me is my apron. She takes a lot of pride in her work and she took the time to embroider it in the traditional Salvadoran style. Salvadoran folk art contains colorful images of familiar things – houses, flowers, birds, and animals.

I wanted to take a photo of my apron to show you, so I put the camera on the counter top and set the timer.

I always take more than one photo just in case. I set the camera up again and while my husband has been known to run into the kitchen and steal bites of food before dinner is ready, this time my husband ran in to steal a besito.

I don’t usually post photos of myself or my husband, and especially one so intimate, (¡Qué escándalo! ji ji ji…) but this photo makes me happy and I wanted to spread the love.

“Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.”
- Harriet Van Horne

Yo soy ese romántico, Yo soy ese lunático

What do you do when you get a craving for birthday cake, but there are no family birthdays on this month’s calendar? You celebrate an un-birthday.

When I called my husband and asked him to pick up a birthday cake, (yellow with white icing, please), on his way home, he obliged. Actually, he more than obliged. He took the opportunity to be muy romántico.

Saying that word, (“romántico”), reminds me of the first Spanish language album I bought. It was 1995, which makes me around 16 years old. The album was “Vida” by La Mafia. Who knows why I picked it up but I remember listening to it on repeat, with the lyrics insert spread before me on the carpet. I especially loved the song “Yo soy ese romántico” because it was one of the few songs I understood all the words to.

“Yo soy ese romántico
Yo soy ese lunático
Que pinta corazones
con tu nombre
Por toda la cuidad
Yo soy ese romántico
Yo soy ese lunático
Que llama cada noche
Que te dice que te ama de verdad.”

-Yo Soy Ese Romántico/La Mafia

I remember my love sick sighs, dreaming of meeting a guy who would be as romantic as the one in the song.

I guess sometimes dreams come true.

I <3 Miami

Maybe I’m romanticizing it since I was only there for a couple days, but I really fell in love with Miami. I don’t know if it’s the kind of place I could live in year round. I’m an East Coast girl at heart. I need my change of seasons, my autumn leaves. I need the smell of fresh cut grass in the summer time… but going tropical felt good at least for a little while.

I loved the art deco architecture, the rustle of palm trees, the turquoise blue of the ocean, hearing Spanish everywhere we went, the adorable casitas, the couples dancing to the salsa version of Coldplay’s song, “Clocks“, the taxi drivers hanging out their windows and calling out piropos to pretty girls, mojitos, learning how to run in tacones, guava cupcakes, and most of all, the diverse group of amazing women who I now call mis amigas.

Going to Miami was life changing in ways I never expected, and probably in ways I have yet to see.

Those who were there with me may know that I argued on and off with my husband via text message almost the entire two days. This made me feel vergüenza, because I know what it looks like from the outside looking in. Most people like to keep up the appearance that their marriage is perfect, but sometimes there is no hiding the truth.

I felt lucky that despite my shyness, I bonded so quickly to all of the girls and that I was able to open up to them. Many of them gave me good advice, some simply a listening ear and a knowing smile. Marriage isn’t easy and mine is no exception. In fact, bi-cultural marriages tend to be even more difficult.

In the end, my husband and I came to a major turning point as individuals and as a couple. My husband was forced to realize that his celos is a result of his own insecurity and I was able to fly free long enough to realize that living like a pajarito in a cage of gold, is not how I want to live. Changing won’t be easy, but we had a very difficult heart-to-heart and our marriage has weathered another storm.


Lights go out and I can’t be saved
Tides that I tried to swim against
You’ve put me down upon my knees
Oh I beg, I beg and plead, singing…

Confusion never stops,
Closing walls and ticking clocks,
Gonna come back and take you home,
I could not stop, that you now know, singing,
Come out upon my seas,
Curse missed opportunities…

And nothing else compares
Oh no nothing else compares
And nothing else compares

You are, Home, home,
Where I wanted to go…

-Coldplay/Clocks

Disclosure: General Mills paid for my trip to Miami for their Qué Rica Vida media event. I received no compensation, monetary or otherwise, for writing about the event. All opinions expressed are my own.

Love is…

Last week my husband refused to buy me a shirt because he disagreed with the text printed on it, but in the end he swallowed his pride and surprised me by making a special trip back to the store to get it for me.

When a Salvadoran man buys a shirt declaring Mexico to be “numero uno”, you better believe he’s in love.

(¡Te quiero también, nene!)

Family vs. Familia

As you know, my mother-in-law and I don’t have the best relationship. The biggest bone of contention has been the living arrangements. Growing up, I imagined myself with a husband and two kids, maybe a dog, but in my perfect little Anglo world, I never considered that I’d have a mother-in-law living with me, too. In-laws and grandparents are supposed to live in their own house, usually a few states away – not down the hallway. Random uncles and cousins also are not supposed to “visit” for weeks or months at a time. When relatives visit, it’s supposed to be for a few days and they’re supposed to use a hotel – That is what my culture told me, anyway.

Well, in Latino culture, which I married into, “family” is not limited to Mom, Dad, Son and Daughter. Besides Mother, Father, Sister, Brother, (not to mention half-siblings in some cases), there’s Grandmother, Grandfather, uncles and aunts, nieces, nephews, cousins and more cousins, not to mention everyone’s in-laws. If that isn’t enough family for you, there are Godparents, and other non-blood related people who get the honorary privilege of being called “familia.”

I’ve become convinced that if Anglos have a “family tree” – Latinos have a “family forest.”

And so for years I miserably asked myself the question, “Why does my mother-in-law want to live with us?” – but I should have been asking “Why would she NOT want to live with us?” Just as much as my culture taught me that this is a strange, uncomfortable living arrangement, hers taught her that this is completely normal and so my resistance to it was incomprehensible, and even deeply hurtful.

This does not excuse any of my mother-in-laws many (many!) faults, but I feel almost like a Zen monk reaching enlightenment for all of this to make sense after so many years – and not just make sense, but to be okay about it.

In my heart of hearts, sometimes I wish I had been able to live my married life in a normal Anglo household, but I would have missed out on so much, and so would my children. My Spanish would not be near as good as it is if I didn’t have to communicate with my non-English speaking mother-in-law on a daily basis. I never would have learned how to pat a tortilla back-and-forth between my palms. I never would have heard the various childhood stories about my husband that she tells every now and then. I never would have gotten a glimpse into the psychology of what made my husband who he is due to her mothering, (the good and the bad.)

My children would never have heard silly folk songs like “Los Pollitos Dicen” – they would have only known of the Tooth Fairy and not of the Latin American equivalent, “Ratóncito Pérez”, (though my husband insists when he was a child, they were too poor to pay him for his teeth so he didn’t know of Ratóncito Pérez either.) My children never would have tasted the mangoes that their grandmother buys, which they love and I hate.

Now looking back, I realize that though my mother-in-law has caused her fair share of discord and misery at times, she also enriched our lives. I’m sure there will be days when it will be hard to remember that, days when I find cilantro leaves littering the kitchen floor that I just swept and mopped, days when I’m trying to write and she has a telenovela on in the living room at maximum volume, but in the end, I guess familia is what you make of it.

(Image source)

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