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.)

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 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!

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!)

“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?