Master of My Multiverse

As a POC child growing up in America, I straddled two universes.

On one hand, I was a part of the America where being on the cheerleading squad, listening to pop, rock, or rap, and watching the latest episode of 90210 were important. On the other, I was a part of an America where being invited to be a dama in a quinceañera, listening to Banda Machos, and watching Muchachitas were equally important.

I think this is often the case for people who immigrate to this country, though I do believe that it can be a part of the lives of people whose family stretches in America for generations. The home life links you to your family’s past and culture while the professional or school life tethers you to mainstream (Anglo) America. When I was younger, this felt like a lot of work, straddling two cultures.

As a POC adult, I find myself with both feet squarely planted in white America and further away from the Latino-landia that surrounded me when I was younger. I pondered for a long time why that was. Here’s what I realized. As a young person, I was inculcated in the Latino world of my parents. My parents attended and sponsored weddings, baby showers, and quinceañeras. I participated in these activities because my parents did not hire babysitters to care for my brothers and I at home while they went out. No. We attended all of those activities. Everyone in our community did the same, it was standard. Result, I was around Spanish, food, friends, and familia.

Now, I live in a largely caucasian world. In my hometown, Latinos make up less than 5% of the population. The majority of my friends are non-Latinos and I have no extended family to lean on for Mexican-style fun. Spanish is spoken for business purposes or to converse with my family members by phone or social media. And, the only other Latina I interact with on a regular (daily) basis is my legal assistant. This means that my mom is not around daily to share the stories of our family, no friend to turn up the music when a good Banda song comes on, and no older aunt to remind me to prepare a family altar for Dia del Muerto. And I can forget about having a posada, who would I even invite?

This question stayed with me for a long while…

How do we, the Americanized children of immigrants, continue to connect to our cultures when we no longer live within our immigrant communities?

 I realized that the effort had to come from me. It was my responsibility to create opportunities for myself to connect to my culture. Here’s a list of the things that I started to do to help me reconnect:

Find organizations that can help you connect with your culture. Join a business or social organizations (check out MANA or your local Hispanic Chamber of Commerce) or participate in a faith-based communities (in my town, a local Catholic Church holds mass in Spanish every Sunday).

Get lost in the world of entertainment. Read books by POC authors. Find a movie or show on your favorite streaming services (bonus points if you watch it in your native language.) Play music from the artists your parents liked (this will give you a strong wave of nostalgia.)

Force yourself to cook recipes from your culture correctly. The yummy results will transport you to your past and give you a sense of appreciation for the love and work your parents put into meals.

Make it a point to visit your OG community for fun activities and events. When the covid-19 pandemic ends, my goal is to return to Garden City, KS for the 16th of September celebrations that occur annually.

Bring your culture into your own world. For example, if you are in a book club, select a book written by a POC author this way, you share your culture with your non-POC friends.

Finally, learn your native language or teach it to your children. According to a mentor I once had, older generations hesitated to teach their children the native languages because diversity was frowned upon before. My mentor recalled being punished in schools for speaking Spanish, even in a lunchroom setting. However, the tides have turned. Your kid will not be smacked with a ruler on the knuckles for speaking Spanish. Teaching yourself or your children the native language will provide a link to their past or enable them to communicate with family still in the old country. More importantly, in our increasingly multicultural country and ever-shrinking world, knowing more than one language is an asset.

What are the things you do to connect with your culture?

Diluting People Power

Awww, fall. The crisp breeze reminds you to pull out your favorite sweaters. The somewhat functioning college football (I live in a Big Twelve community) tells us that people are trying to pretend all is normal. But things are not normal. Covid-19 continues to plague communities worldwide. In the US, the 2020 Presidential election took place and a winner was decided. Or was it?

Unlike past election, United Statians eagerly participated in early voting and Election Day voting. In many states we saw long lines of citizens waiting for hours to cast a ballot. The media touted this as demonstrative of passionate citizens making their voices heard. That’s plausible.

Another plausible explanation is that we were witnessing voter suppression in action. In 2013, the US Supreme Court voted to invalidate key aspects of the Voting Rights Act. This important legislation was created in 1964. Its goal was to ensure that all US citizens had access to voting. For all who may not know, this was a real problem in the post-civil war US.

AND, IT CONTINUES TO BE A PROBLEM NOW.

After the US Supreme Court announced its decision, many States went into suppression mode. Texas initiated new “voter identification laws.” These changes made less people (and yes, I am talking US citizens) eligible for voting. Other States began “redistricting” efforts. These actions diluted the power of voters in individual communities.

The sad thing is that the people who want to reduce the powers of people are now being blatant about it. Republican Kansas state senator Susan Wagle was caught on video plotting with right-wing cronies about her redistricting dreams. By redrawing maps, she endeavors to remove US House representative Sharice Davids (the lone Democrat representing Kansas) from her seat and replace her with a conservative. The Governor of Texas changed the rules about ballot boxes. He limited them to one per county. Why was that a problem? Because 41 counties in Texas are bigger than the State of Rhode Island!

These actions are wrong. They strike at the chord of what we tell the world that it means to be “American.” Overseas, we want to tout ourselves as a beacon of democracy. Stateside, elected conservatives have embraced an authoritarian regime. Overseas we want to encourage people to embrace democracy and capitalism. Stateside, federal and state governments suppress people of color, women, and young voters.

Worse than the suppression of US citizens? These actions undermine our country’s position on the world stage. These actions cause safety concerns for military men and women serving tours overseas. These actions weaken the credibility of our diplomats. They even make it harder for US citizens to travel freely outside of this country.

My hope is that 2020 will be a wake up call for all. My hope is that people will remain engaged after casting their vote. Voting for one Presidential candidate will not be enough to get our country back on track. I hope that once the election is over, people will begin the real work of democracy. The items on my agenda are as follows:

Increasing the number of political parties

I don’t have a lot of ideas about how this happens. But, I do wonder why in a country of 330 million people we only have two major political parties. This puts our country at a huge disadvantage. And, it puts the political parties in peril. Case in point, after I became a naturalized citizen, I was so excited to register as a Republican. I reasoned that thanks to a Republican (Reagan), my family and I had been the beneficiaries of amnesty. If you do not know, amnesty ensured millions of undocumented immigrants the opportunity to legalize their status in the US.

Unfortunately, the Republican party beliefs are not what I believed. I understood it to be a party of small government. Now I ask myself how that same party now pushes for government control over the bodies of 50% of its population, The party that I thought encouraged civic engagement now seeks to oppress its voters. And, I do not understand how the party of Lincoln has now become the party of white supremacists. That used to be the goal of the southern democrats. Don’t believe me? Remember that guy George Wallace, governor of Alabama who fought integration of schools? Yeah, he was a democrat.

Abolishing the electoral college

This is my most ambitious wish. The abolishment of the electoral college would require an amendment to the US constitution. But, this change would ensure that everyone’s vote counted in future Presidential elections. Currently, the vote of the people does not ensure a Presidential win. We learned this in 2001 with Bush v. Gore and were reminded of this lesson in 2016 with Clinton vs. Trump.

Putting term limits on federal representatives

This is crucial to ensure that our public servants (i.e. representatives and senators) do not cross the threshold from serving the public to becoming political conduits of lobbyists and corporations. It ensures that representatives do not get to stay in power without bringing any real results to their constituents. And, it ensures that new ideas and younger people can contribute to creating the society that they desire. After all, it is younger people who must live longer with the outcomes of policy decisions made at high levels of government.

Reducing dark money in politics

Of course, money is a problem in politics. In 2010, the US Supreme Court issued its opinion in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. This case reversed years of campaign finance restrictions. It put power in corporations and the ultra wealthy by enabling unlimited spending in elections. It further reduced the power of the federal election commission to promote and protect this country.

But it is not just the decision in Citizens United that has turned our elections into a shitshow. Media also plays a hand. CBS chairman was quoted in 2016 stating that although Donald Trump may not be good for America, he certainly is good for the ratings of TV networks, specifically his.

This is not all. In 2020, NBC chose to host a Trump town hall meeting at the same time as ABC was running a town hall meeting for Biden. ABC’s program was scheduled earlier and intended to be a Presidential debate. When Trump pulled out of the debate, NBC rewarded him with his own town hall meeting on three of their channels. Instead of giving the people of our country the opportunity to watch both and evaluate their choices, NBC chose to create a fight for ratings.

These types of actions must stop. Our country’s future requires all of our participation. It requires us to have rules in place that protect all of our people. Our country deserves more than what corporations, politicians and outside actors (like foreign governments) are trying to push us to become. It requires all of us to remember that WE THE PEOPLE must fight towards ensuring that we will all have opportunities for LIFE, LIBERTY, AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS.

What ideas do you have to improve our country’s political structure?

The Cost of Being a Woman

Living in a patriarchal society creates burdens on women that men do not encounter. Whether intended or not, those burdens impact women’s financial, emotional, and physical well-being.

The financial costs

In my twenties, I was a woman preoccupied with her looks.


I spent much hard-earned money on clothes that no longer fits and shoes I no longer own. I was completely wasteful. Despite the efforts I made towards my looks I do not recall feeling more happy than I do now. In fact, I know that I was not happier than I am now.


This is not surprising.


From an early age, women are misled. We are told that to be happy, we must look a certain way. We are sold the idea that being a woman means having material possessions- clothes, handbags, shoes- and engaging in certain activities- manicures, pedicures, facials, & massages.


As a result, we place value on ourselves based on our beauty or bodies. That value then translates into dollars for corporate America. A recent article I read suggests that over the course of our lifetimes, women spend approximately $250,000 on their appearances. (For that story click here.) Women are wasting their financial resources.


The average price of homes in the US at $315,000 (found in this Dave Ramsey blog post). Thus, for the same amount of money as the average woman spends on beauty she could buy a home. Of course, men also spend money on appearance. But, considering that women are often paid less than men, one can argue that the financial burdens of being a woman are multi-tiered.

The Emotional Costs

Those who fall prey to gendered stereotypes believe that women are more emotional than men. Those who fall prey and are mysoginists argue that this is the reason why women cannot serve in high levels of leadership such as the US presidency. This type of erroneous thinking puts additional burdens on women. Women who want to counter the emotional stereotype may feel forced to act with more restraint than men.


The emotional costs of being a woman could be lessened. If society deemed it acceptable for both men and women to feel their full emotions. Additionally, a recognition that emotions are not gendered would also be helpful. Women can be aggressive, strong, and blunt. Men can be emotional, soft, and nurturing.

The Physical Costs

When I first started this essay, I thought my research would support my belief that women face higher cost or greater burdens in life than men. But there is one are in which women are not as burdened and that is overall health. An interesting article I found in this Harvard e-newsletter stated that women live healthier, and as a result, longer lives. While this article gave me promise for my health, the truly valuable information it contained was a list for men about improving their health. I shared the article with the men in my life.

Do you believe that there are additional costs or burdens to your gender? Why or why not?

Why Checking Solely White is No Longer Right for Me

In 2012, I visited the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. There I learned that race is a social construct. There are no significant scientific distinctions between people of differing pigmentations. To be more precise, human DNA varies no more than .01% between people of different “races” or skin tone. (For more information, check out this archived NYT story and this National Geographic book review.)


For a long time, race was something I took for granted. Like every other American, I have filled out forms that included questions about my race, ethnicity, gender, and religious affiliation. And, based on my understanding of race and ethnicity, I have filled always my forms out as follows:

  • Race- White
  • Ethnicity- Hispanic/Latino- Yes

In 2017, my husband purchased for me an ancestry kit. Through that process, I learned that I was 44.7% European descent and 41.5% Native American descent. Yet, throughout my entire life, I had only identified myself as racially White. I always understood that my Mexican-ness was an ethnicity, not a race. I now believe that by identifying only one aspect of my lineage, I missed out on an important part of my family’s history.


Why does it matter?


I have pondered this question since I learned about my ancestral history. I have begun to put more thought into it as I contemplate how to answer the census questionnaire that will be hitting my mailbox this year. What is the longterm impact in my life on thinking of myself as a White Hispanic? I am not sure.


But, I do think that it has some impact.


You see, I now believe that it is important to see myself as all the above- Mexican-born, Native American and white, US citizen. In the past year, I found an article on PBS about the shifting nature of the definition of whiteness. And, I came to recognize that many of the same people who now disparage the incoming immigrants, were, at one time, seen in those same terms by “Real Americans.” However, once they got scooped up into the definition of whiteness, they forgot what it meant to be immigrant. They became the haters that their ancestors once faced.

I don’t want to be that way. And, I want to help others not to be that way. By reminding myself of the ties I have to other people that inhabit the land around me, I can encourage others to consider how they see themselves. I think it is worth it to try to relate to everyone. I think that when we see more of ourselves in others, we are able to see the humanity in everyone.

In the time that I have been contemplating this, I have slowly begun to include Native American as part of my self identify on various questionnaires. I have tried to be careful that I do it in a way that is not misleading or distracting from those individuals who have been raised in largely native or indigenous communities. And, I have decided that I will be checking both Native and White in the 2020 census along with Latina and Mexican.

Are there boxes you should not check?

The same ancestry test told me that I have 3% Subsaharan African and 1% Western Asian and North African descent and that 1% of my European descent derived from an Ashkenazi Jewish ancestor. I am excited to learn a little more about these connections. Nonetheless, I do not plan on including black or African American as a box that I check.

I think that in order to identify with a race or ethnic identity one must have had experiences or awareness of that identity in youth.

I grew up speaking Spanish, brought up by Mexican parents in a community that included large numbers of Central Americans. My parents tethered me to that world.

At the same time, I grew up in a primarily white school. All of my friends were of European descent. I went to college in Topeka, Kansas and was in a sorority. I tethered myself to Anglo America.

When I think of those two things- the world I came from and the world I created for myself, I do not believe that my lived experiences enable me to check the box for Black or African American. In other words, I have not lived the experiences of a black person.

Do you have a story of contemplating your ancestral identity? Share it with me.

My Worlds Collide

Ways to incorporate Mexican traditions into your holiday season.

Welcome to 2020 amigas and amigos. I am excited to come back from the holiday season renewed and ready to rock a new decade. How about you?

From reading my blog in the past you may know that I am an immigrant from Mexico who came to the US at a young age (6.) Over my lifetime as an American, I have assimilated into the mainstream, anglo culture. Perhaps a little too well. As a result, I oftentimes find it difficult to incorporate Mexican traditions into my holiday season.

This Christmas, I experienced the joy of having my parents in my home. That helped because when they are around, I feel more authentically Mexican. See, I don’t spend every Christmas with my parents. Every other year, they travel to Mexico during the holidays to see my paternal grandmother.

During the holidays when my parents are in the US, we make tamales. This has been a tradition for my family since I was a child so it absolutely helps to make me feel more authentically Mexican. But, this year, we did not make tamales. So, how did I end up feeling that this was my most authentically Mexican holiday season? Check it out…

Let the magic happen

As I shared earlier, my parents visited our home during the holidays. This was wonderful but can prove challenging. When my husband and I spend time with my parents, I become the de facto translator between them. I am not complaining. I enjoy nothing more than to help my parents communicate with the English speaking world. I have done that since my age was in the single digits.


But, as you can imagine, translating is mentally exhausting. Additionally, I don’t enjoy what happens when I serve as a translator in a conversation between my parents and my husband. It seems to me that when I am around, my parents speak to me and at my husband.

However, this wonderful thing happened, my worlds collided. I stepped away to my bedroom for a few moments and suddenly… Magic. Rather than relying on my translation skills, my parents and my husband began to communicate and interact with one another. My parents used their English speaking skills to converse directly with my husband.

It was wonderful. My husband instantly became more attentive and focused on what they had to say. The people I love the most were sharing in laughter and fun. I sat and listened to them for about ten minutes just talking with one another. I will treasure that memory always.

Explored other Mexican flavors

As you know, we did not make tamales this Christmas Eve. However, we did explore another Mexican delicacy. Beef tongue tacos.

This was a fun experience because we invited a few non-Latino friends to our home during our Christmas Eve celebration. Since I know that food likes are based on what people grow up with, I did have an alternative meat to the beef tongue (for a good recipe, click the link) that was more traditional American fare, ground beef. After all, my non-Latino husband does not like the idea of eating a beef tongue.

At least in my family, there are several philosophies about whether or not you should tell your non-Latinos guests that they are eating a beef tongue. My brothers just tells people it’s beef, shut up and eat it. On the other hand, I believe that full consent is necessary.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there is some value to just telling people it’s beef. For some reason the fact that it is a tongue freaks most non-Latinos out. But the reality is that beef tongue, when prepared correctly, is just as soft and tasty as beef filet. I personally find it weird that the same people who are grossed out by beef tongue are the same people who have no qualms with eating an American hot dog. But, I digress.

I notified my guests what was on the menu. I am happy to report that those that did try the beef tongue found it enjoyable. In addition to having a delicious taco bar, we played Spanish Christmas music all night. It was one of the best Christmas Eves we have had.

Found new holiday classics

One of my favorite things to do during the holiday season is enjoy all the holiday movies. From classics like Scrooged (yes, Bill Murray’s Scrooged is the best rendition of the Dickens classic and don’t tell me different or I will fight you) to the cheesy (this year’s fave? Netflix’s The Holiday Calendar), I love to watch them all.

This year I shared my new favorite (which I found last year thanks to a great Remezcla article) with my husband. Nothing Like the Holidays. It was a wonderful experience. My husband loved the movie as much as I did. We agreed that it would be added to the list of holiday classics we watch each year.

In sum, my holidays season was wonderful. Thanks to giving my family the opportunity to interact, I witnessed a beautiful moment between my husband and my parents. I found an alternative to the heavy work that tamales require by trying another Mexican foodie favorite, beef tongue tacos. And, I shared a great movie with my husband and son that also gave us some insight into the beautiful traditions that Puerto Ricans incorporate into their holidays. In sum, I was blessed.

How did you incorporate your family’s immigrant traditions into your life this holiday season?