13 years

Today Carlos and I have been married 13 years. As usual, we don’t have enough chirilicas to buy anything for each other – but that’s okay. No amount of money in the world can buy what we have together and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

This isn’t to say our marriage is perfect – far from it! Truth be told, we can be downright dysfunctional. There is passion – passion that leads to some of the hottest fights you’d never want to see, (though the passion is good for other things, too.) …One thing is for sure, it’s never boring y ojalá our love for each other will always win out in the end.

Ya tú sabes, te quiero un chingo, Carlos.

El Guanaco + La Güera
(a poem for Carlos)

What more can I say,
que ya no te dijé,
me gusta como dices
“pata” en vez de “pie.”

Tu Caliche makes me crazy
y tu familia de otra manera
aunque me llamen “Traisy”
I’m proud to be tu güera.

Sabes que te agradezco
for all the things you do
Tú trabajas muy fuerte
To buy mis Bubu Lubus.

The truth is that without you,
(and our two cipotes)
Yo ando bien perdida
igual a Don Quixote.

Ahora voy a decirte,
In front of all these gente,
Eres mi guanaco,
absolutamente.

Latinos & Gringas Gorditas

White guy #1: You know who likes to go with Mexicans? Fat white girls! It’s always the fat ones who-
Carlos: Hey.
White guy #1: What?
Carlos: Do me a favor.
White guy #1: Yeah?
Carlos: Shut the fuck up. {walks away}
White guy #1: Damn, what the hell’s his problem?
White guy #2: You’re a dumbass. His wife is white.
{awkward silence}
White guy #1: But I wasn’t sayin’ nothin – I just meant it’s like… a stereotype.

A stereotype – and like any stereotype, it’s mostly hurtful bigotry, but with a little truth mixed in – (Sort of like Fruit Punch with 10% real juice.)

“Gringas Gorditas” (Fat white girls), do not disproportionately pair up with Latino men. I can say anecdotally that among the gringas I know who are with Latino men, it’s an even split 50/50 with half being flacas (thin) and the other half being gorditas (chubby or fat.)

I’m one of the gorditas, and I’ve come up against a lot of ignorant assumptions about my marriage. First of all, I did not “settle” for my husband because I couldn’t “get a white guy”. I dated boys/men from many different backgrounds (including Caucasian) before I met Carlos.

Second of all, my husband did not choose me just to get a Greencard, and nor am I a “status symbol” for him.

This stereotype about Latinos and gringas gorditas is doubly damaging because not only does it literally weigh my worth as a woman in pounds, it casts an ugly light on interracial marriage – as if our marriage is somehow less valid.

Here’s some breaking news: Interracial couples fall in love for all the complicated and simple reasons “same race” couples fall in love. In the end, it comes down to attraction – not just physical, (though biologically that can’t much be helped), but spiritual connection, emotional attachment, and shared experiences all play a role.

Now for the 10% juice: Culturally speaking, Latino men are typically more accepting, and even desiring, of a thicker figure on a woman, than are Anglo men. (Source: Study on Race/Ethnicity Body Type Preferences)

(Necessary Disclaimer: That, of course, is a generality that does not apply to all Latino men or all Anglo men. Individual results may vary.)

The real question in my mind is what is the fascination with this stereotype? Why all the scrutiny over my curves and his color? Yes, I’m a gringa gordita and yes, he is Latino – ¿Y qué? (So what?)

“It is not that love is blind. It is that love sees with a painter’s eye, finding the essence that renders all else background.” – Robert Brault

Quiero Mi Boda

Maybe love knows no boundaries, but that doesn’t mean cultures won’t clash.

The show “Quiero Mi Boda” on channel TR3S, is a reality show now in its second season, which documents couples from different cultures and how they navigate the messy business of getting their families, (who sometimes don’t even speak a common language), to accept their relationship, and then planning their weddings to keep everyone happy despite traditions that sometimes directly conflict with one another.

I had the opportunity to interview Sebastian Portillo, the producer of “Quiero Mi Boda”, and want to share that with you here, with English translation.

Latinaish.com: Hola Señor Portillo, gracias por tomarse el tiempo por responder unas preguntas de el programa “Quiero Mi Boda” que saldra el 25 de Octubre a la 7 pm EST en el canal TR3S…Por los que no están familiarizados con el programa, puedes decirme a cerca de ¿qué es el programa “Quiero Mi Boda”?

(Translation: Hello Mr. Portillo, thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions about the program “Quiero Mi Boda” that will premiere October 25th at 7 pm on channel TR3S…For those who are not familiar with the program, can you tell me what is the show “Quiero Mi Boda” about?)

Sebastian Portillo: Es un reflejo de lo que tienen que atravesar las parejas de diferentes culturas cuando deciden casarse, y se dan cuenta que las tradiciones que siempre soñaron incorporar, no necesariamente son las mismas que las de su pareja.

(Translation: It is a reflection of what couples of different cultures have to go through when they decide to marry, and they realize that the traditions they always dreamed of incorporating, are not necessarily the same as those of their partner.)

Latinaish.com: ¿Por qué quisiste producir este programa tomando en cuenta parejas multi-culturales en vez de parejas de la misma cultura?

(Translation: Why did you want to produce this program about multi-cultural couples instead of couples of the same culture?)

Sebastian Portillo: La razón principal fue que esta tendencia de casarse con personas de otras culturas es algo que se esta viendo mucho entre los Latinos viviendo en US. Antes había muchos mas prejuicios y ahora el amor demostró nuevamente que no tiene fronteras.

(Translation: The main reason was that this tendency to marry people of other cultures is something that is being seen widely among Latinos living in the U.S. Before there were many more prejudices and now love has once again demonstrated that it has no boundaries.)

Latinaish.com: ¿Había una pareja más memorable, o un evento que te sorprendió en la producción?

(Translation: Was there a most memorable couple, or event that surprised you during production?)

Sebastian Portillo: Lo interesante de esta temporada es que tuvimos la suerte de producir episodios con culturas bien diversa. Tenemos las que no pueden faltar, como la mexicana, peruana, cubana, y puertorriqueña, pero también las bien diferentes, como la china, de indonesia, India, persa, y afro-americana. Pero. Lo algo para destacar es que dos de las parejas se casaron luego de tener un hijo y eso mostro otro aspecto de que pasa con dos culturas diferentes cuando hay un nuevo miembro de la familia y como es que puede complicar aun mas el proceso del casamiento.

(Translation: The interesting thing about this season is that we were lucky to produce episodes with very diverse cultures. We have people like the Mexican, Peruvian, Cuban, Puerto Rican, but also those who were very different, such as Chinese, Indonesian, Indian, Persian, and African-American. But the thing to note is that two of the couples married after having a child and it showed another aspect of what happens with two different cultures when there’s a new member of the family and how we can further complicate the process of marriage.)

Latinaish.com: Gracias Sr. Portillo por su tiempo. Esperamos con interés “Quiero Mi Boda”. Deseando amor y felicidad a las parejas. Como una gringa casada con un salvadoreño, les puedo decir, no es fácil, pero vale la pena.

(Translation: Thanks Mr. Portillo for your time. We look forward to “Quiero Mi Boda”. I wish love and happiness to the couples. As a gringa married to a Salvadoran, I can tell them, it isn’t easy, but it’s worth it.)

Fuerza Mineros

Fuerza Mineros, (the Twitter hashtag #fuerzamineros), a wish of strength to the miners, these two words I typed dozens of times yesterday as I watched the rescue unfold in Chile.

I tweeted some of the rescues as they happened, and once I started, I found that I had to stay there for the very last one.

Part of the intrigue for me was pride in watching the true international effort at play – seeing how we are capable of such greatness when we work together. This rescue in Chile could not have happened without the help of the United States, and dozens of other countries. It’s a lesson in cooperation and humbleness, in allowing others to help when you can’t do something on your own. It’s a lesson on strength in numbers – just as the Chilean miners pooled their talents to survive below ground, the world pooled their talents above ground to save them. We are all unique individuals with unique abilities, which we should use to help others.

The second reason I watched, was for the pure happiness it gave me. The rescue allowed us to forget our own problems, like any other distraction. I think for a lot of people, it was a much needed respite from the usual depressing political and economic news. Maybe watching the families reunite gave us a moment to recharge and recalibrate – to realize just what is important in this world.

When these kind of amazing stories happen, it’s inevitable that the characters in the story will be granted a sort of legendary status, becoming unforgettable to an entire generation. The Chilean miners have been described almost as saints, called heroes, been ascribed attributes such as “resilient”, but I’m going to take an unpopular stance … As horrific as their ordeal was and as intelligent and strong as they were to survive, they are not saints or heroes, and they are no more resilient than most other human beings who find themselves in a situation where they must fight for their lives.

The Chilean miners are men – and flawed men, just like the rest of us. Perhaps none has exemplified that as publicly as Yonni Barrios – the miner who had both a wife and mistress show up to the site calling his name, (and word has it, he isn’t the only one who had multiple women claim him.)

But the truth is, all of the miners have skeletons in their closets, just like the rest of us – and I’d be willing to bet that the contract they signed with each other in the mine was that they’d never tell a soul about the things they must have confessed to each other during the days when they thought they might not make it out.

And while the miners have captured the world’s attention, there are human beings who never get to tell their stories, who are never praised for their survival, who are suffering in all kinds of situations every day all over the world; from starvation, poverty, illness, separation from family or homeland, to loneliness, unjust incarceration, abuse, slavery, and mourning. It is the human condition, and those of us who are not touched by the worst of this kind of suffering are the lucky minority.

It may seem I’m being cynical – on the contrary! This should give you hope! What I’m saying is that, like the miners, though we are not saints, we all have hidden reserves of strength, we all have the ability to pull through difficult times. We all have the capacity for faith in something greater than us no matter how “religious” we consider ourselves. We all have the ability to be reborn in this world, to change our ways. Each day that you wake up and feel the sunshine upon your face, it is another chance to try again.

(Photo by Hugo Infante/Chilean Government via Getty Images)


“With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world…Strive to be happy.”-Desiderata/ Max Ehrmann

Te Encontraré – PART V

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

Te Encontraré – PART V
~El sábado me casé~

Years later, I admitted the truth to my parents, that our first son was not actually an accident after all.

But, this is how Carlos met my parents for the first time, sitting on their sofa, his head lowered, barely able to make eye contact with my father. Carlos had wanted to ask for my hand in marriage in the traditional way, but I don’t remember if he was able to actually speak. More likely, to put an end to the awkward silence and get it over with, like ripping off a band-aid, the words spilled from my mouth,

“Mom, Dad…This is Carlos. We need to talk to you… I’m …pregnant… and we want to get married… and…He…isn’t in the United States legally…”

My parents cycled through disbelief, anger, sadness – the entire grieving process in just minutes. There were a lot of tears, questions – some we could answer, (How far along are you?), others I knew not to answer, (Dammit, Tracy! What were you thinking?!) and emotions so strong I felt like I would choke on them. At this point my mother probably wished I was in that Turkish prison she always joked I’d get locked up in, at least then I’d serve my sentence and be free – but this, there was no way out of this. I had sentenced myself to life.

Some families would have turned their backs, but not mine. By the end of the evening, my parents embraced us both, encircled in their arms, they vowed to help us in any way they could, and prayed over us … prayed that God would take care of us despite our foolishness.

On a rainy chilly day in mid-January, only having known each other for 5 months, and me pregnant by 2 months, Carlos and I married in a quiet courtroom ceremony with little fanfare, surrounded by family who wished us the best, but probably feared the very worst.

Like I told you in the beginning, some of this story would be better remembered differently – it isn’t exactly fairy tale material, but we’ve been married 12 1/2 years now. We have a 12 year old son and an almost 9 year old son. We have been through hell and back multiple times – this marriage has not been easy. Sometimes we didn’t know if we would make it, but we’re still together, and in love more than I ever could have imagined…Despite the circumstances of our imperfect romance, so far, we have lived happily ever after.

El domingo la vi en misa,
el lunes le sonreí,
el martes me presentaron,
el miércoles fuí a su casa,
el jueves me declaré,
el viernes le di el anillo,
y el sábado me casé.

-Unknown

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 III

(Read PART I: HERE)
(Read PART II: HERE)

Te Encontraré – PART III
~Fools Rush In~

Summer gave way to Autumn. Carlos and I spent almost every day together at the expense of everything else. If I worked, he showed up on my lunch break to eat with me and exchange love letters. If he worked, I waited at his brother’s apartment for him, watching television with his visiting mother, who seemed to go back and forth between admiring me and disliking me.

I brought Carlos to a pumpkin patch for the first time, showed him how to carve a jack-o-lantern, taught him how to drive my car in an empty parking lot. He took me to a Spanish language Catholic mass, movies, introduced me to family friends, gave me my first sip of horchata. We watched telenovelas together, babysat his niece together, took his mother to the airport together. One day we ordered a large pizza, ate the entire thing by ourselves, and then just laid on the carpet feeling sick together.

It felt as if we lived a lifetime in only a couple months. We laughed, we cried, we shared secrets, we had fights and made up, and though I liked him, I became uncomfortable with how quickly things had happened between us. I felt like I was being swept away, like I had lost control.

Though he hadn’t done anything wrong, completely out of the blue one night, I gave him the “maybe we should just be friends” speech. Carlos begged me to reconsider, cried and literally held onto me, wouldn’t let me go.

Looking back, I think that both of us were lost in a way, and we found comfort in clinging to each other. He was far from his homeland, feeling every day that he was in a place he didn’t belong. I simply had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I was the one certain thing he could count on each day, and I couldn’t take that from him.

Though my heart felt conflicted, I decided to give things another chance. Remembering that day now, I shudder to think how thoughtlessly I almost threw it all away.

___

Wise men say,
only fools rush in,
but I cant help,
falling in love with you.

-Elvis Presley

___

Go Read: PART IV