Porque en Cuba...
When I first found out I was expecting, there was not a doubt in my mind: I would be passing on my Cuban heritage to my baby. My older brother, Ray, and I are the first U.S.-born generation in our family, but our roots run deep into our culture. We were brought up the only way our parents knew how, the way their parents had brought them up on our little island nation, as far back as our lineage can be traced.
We grew up with the smell of Papi's cafe con leche and fresh bought pan cubano and croquetitas Mami had run out to get wafting through the air most Saturday mornings. The U.S. touch came when every so often that scent was swapped out for the equally delectable aroma of Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls rising in the oven. Long road trips south to the Florida Keys were filled with the sounds of Willy Chirino blaring through the stereo speakers, were it not for the occasional gringo touch of The Eagles' greatest hits. Ray and I speak impeccable Spanish because our grandmother didn't speak a lick of English. Christmas Day was never that big a deal, but we spent all year looking forward to and never missed a single pig roast on Noche Buena. My dad is a pretty big fan of the Jimmy Buffet-style of music, but we learned to dance salsa and meringue under his and mom's direction. My parents did an outstanding job bringing us up in a very balanced way, with one foot in each country, it seems. They didn't out-rightly reject any of the new freedoms, celebrations or customs that came with our family's new homeland, but they made sure we learned the traditions of la isla de lindos paisajes.
I didn't always love my culture. When middle & high school years rolled around and I wasn't allowed to attend most sleepovers or go out with a boy sans chaperone, I would always complain about it. "Why? So-and-so gets to go out on dates with her boyfriend and sleepover at her best friend's house."
"Eso es muy bien para Fulanita, pero Fulanita no es hija mía."
I couldn't stand hearing that answer. I would think, 'It's just because we're Hispanics. Si fuéramos gringos...'
Now that I'm a mom, I'm totally looking forward to bringing Noah up with my heritage in mind. Thankfully, my husband Julio, though Nicaraguan, was brought up very similarly, and we see eye to eye on this. (Don't worry Nica peeps, there's plenty of carne asada and queso frito in Noah's future.) We speak to Noah in Spanish. He gets doused in Agua de Violetas, Cuba's traditional baby cologne, on the regular. He will grow up with the fear of being on the receiving end of a chancletazo. Someday, his cousins will let him try the first pellejito on Noche Buena, and his uncle will teach him the best way to marinate and roast el lechoncito. His Abuelo will teach him to dance salsa and merengue and he'll get to practice his moves on me before he can estrenar at the quinceañeras. And you better believe he's going to have tremenda super chaperona and will not be durmiendo en casa de nadie until he's 18 years old.
I know that many of these traditions aren't necessarily exclusive to Cubans, but they're some of the practices that stand out the most in my mind. And even though I hated some of these things so much growing up, I plan on doing them, because even though I couldn't see it then, I do feel now that they were the right moves for my parents to make.
Yes, you read that correctly. I'll come out and say it, just for their pleasure. Mami y Papi, casi siempre tenían la razón! I won't say you were always right. After all, you're only human. 😜 But then again, so am I. I can only hope Noah grows up with a love of our family's culture much the same way I did. The challenge is that a lot of it is up to me, and I am just an imperfect person. But I'm doing my best! If nothing else, he's got to love the food and speak the language. If he turns out like his father and has two left feet, but can make a mean pan con bistec, I think I can live with that.
What about you? Is there another culture you're trying to bring your child up in? Or maybe Cubana también? Let me know! I'd love to hear what you're doing to educate your little one(s) in your family's heritage.